September 21, 2019 Supporting Manhattan-area entrepreneurs, businesses, events

Interview with Manhattan Asian Market

Opened in 2010, Manhattan Asian Market delivers quality products from all over Asia to the MHK community. Recently, I was fortunate to be able to interview the manager of Manhattan Asian Market, Fanny Fang. Here is what I learned from her:

What inspired you to choose Manhattan, Kansas?

Both of my parents immigrated from China with only experience in food as farmers. They first started in New York City, helping my grandma run her takeout restaurant right in the East Village. Then my dad wanted to do his own thing. He wrote a check for three grand to purchase a car, and the next day he was off traveling west to find the perfect destination. No phone. No internet. Just a run-down car with the will to fulfill the American dream.

They ended up in Zanesville, OH. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out. They ended up in Salina, Kansas. Again, it didn’t work out. And then finally they made it to Manhattan, Kansas and opened up a Chinese buffet. The buffet treated our family well, but it was only making us 99% happy. That wasn’t good enough and we needed to shift gears. Although we owned a Chinese buffet, we still, just like everyone else, had to travel to Kansas City, a 2 hour drive, just to pick up ingredients that we were comfortable with and could really be used in the authentic dishes that my parents were used to eating when they were back in China or in a bigger city where there are more ethnic grocery stores. With my family looking to get out of the restaurant business and only really knowing food, the next natural step was to open the Asian Market.

What inspired you to open an Asian Market?

Plain and simple, it sucks not being able to cook what you love and the offerings in Manhattan was just too limited for our liking. We saw an opportunity to not only satisfy this yearning that we had for an authentic, delicious home-cooked meal, we also saw that this feeling that we had wasn’t just exclusive to us. Often times when we travel out of Kansas, and people hear that we own an international grocery store, without missing a beat the next question is always, “is there enough diversity in Kansas to sustain such a business?” The answer is yes. But it’s not only ethnic diversity that matters. It’s also about the diversity of thought which this town has an abundance of. We see it with the growth of K-State, Fort Riley and our town. That diversity of thought ultimately leads to open-mindedness and that is the reason we believe so much in our business and in those who we serve.

For readers who might be new to your location, what are some interesting products you offer?

This is a hard question to answer for the simple fact that everything in the store is unique to an individual who shops at our store. We know this because our business was built by our customers who shared their story about what foods they ate growing up or when they were traveling and how much they miss it. The stories range from “when I was serving in Korea…” to “Back in the islands my mom cooked…” We hear these stories every single day and it is such a humbling experience. With that being said, I guarantee you that when you walk into our store, you will always find something new. We’re always learning from our customers and suppliers as well as doing our own research to develop a deeper understanding of how food and culture intersect around the world.

In addition to the products, fresh produces, seafood, and meats that we provide in-store, we also have an active social media. On our Facebook, we mainly post videos of recipes and articles about food and culture. On our Instagram, we mainly post how we use products in our store as well as how our customers are using them.

Anything else you’d like to add to the article?

I’d like to share my own story – I was raised here in the Little Apple and graduated from
Manhattan High in 2013. Afterwards, I had the good fortune to pursue a degree in sports management at New York University. While I was there, I learned from many thought leaders including one of the greatest professors in consumer behavior and branding, Professor David Hollander, and the serial entrepreneur, Gary Vaynerchuk. Through courses and internships, I worked with companies like the New York Jets, ESPN, and several up-and-coming sports startups. These experiences were incredible and I am so forever grateful for every single moment and person I met and learned from… but ultimately all of this only added up to me being 99% happy. That missing one percent was something I thought I could find in the Big Apple, but when I returned to Manhattan after graduating this December, it became clear – I simply missed home and the town that raised me.

One of the most memorable conversations I had in NYC was with Hashtag Sports co-founder Anthony Caponiti as a digital marketing intern. We were discussing partnership vs competition and he said, “why take a bigger piece of the pie when you can just make the pie bigger and everyone can have a piece of it?” There is no other community I would rather share this pie with than the people here in Manhappiness.

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