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A food blog from NHPR news, digital, & programming staff, exploring food & food culture around the state & the New England region. On-air features air Thursdays on All Things Considered and Saturdays during Weekend Edition.

Foodstuffs: A Neighborhood Market Searches For A Neighborhood

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A food market can be a cultural center for a neighborhood. The owner of an Asian market in Manchester is hoping to become just that, but first he must find a new space for his store. To learn more about the Saigon Asian Market we turned to Mark Hayward of the Union Leader who has written about the market’s struggle with the Manchester Zoning Board of Adjustment:

What can you tell us about this store and about its owner?

Saigon Asian Market has been in Manchester for about 12 years. It was on South Maple Street, just off of Willow Street, which everyone knows as the main commercial strip in Manchester. It was a little, thriving market with things that are hard to find in New Hampshire. It had Asian vegetables, a large selection of teas, Chinese cooking wine and a large variety of meat including goat there. Many people in Manchester enjoyed the store.

Nine months ago the store shut down and was looking for a new location. What happened?

It was a situation where the landlord told Thanh Ho, the owner of Saigon Asian Market, that he had a better tenant and wanted Ho to move. Ho found himself looking for space in the city.

He found a building that the State Department of Employment Security is in now and planning to vacate, but, the Manchester Zoning Board of Adjustment thought otherwise. Why were they against this move?

They said it was too big. He wanted to open up a ten to fifteen thousand square foot market which is nothing compared to a supermarket like Market Basket. However this property would be pretty sizeable for a center city, residential neighborhood. They were worried about the usual building issues like traffic, deliveries, dumpsters and kids from Central High School hanging around. So they told him no.

What was the reaction from the public, especially from Manchester’s Vietnamese community?

There was outcry from many communities, not just the Vietnamese. Many people from the Brazilian community shopped at his store. The Vietnamese community pointed out that a lot of them live in the neighborhood and can walk to the store. Ho was adamant that he wanted a store like this for his community because they would have to drive to Nashua or Boston for these types of goods. Unfortunately, the Zoning Board voted 4-1 against this move.

So must Ho go back to the drawing board now?

This was a rehearing, which is usually what developers or business owners request after the Zoning Board turns them down. The next step is bringing it to court. When I talked to Ho afterwards he was a little uncertain of what his next move was. He knows that it will take a long time to fight it in court and he has many customers that want to begin shopping now. At the moment he is looking for other spaces.

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