New Asian food market offers fresh, healthy alternatives

When dining halls close at 7 p.m. but work extends into the early hours of the morning, there is one late-night necessity for many Yalies — the oversized bowl of instant ramen noodles.

With last Friday’s opening of J-mart, a new family-owned Asian food market on Orange Street between Crown and George Streets, Yalies have a new supplier of authentic, inexpensive ramen bowls and instant soups, as well as fresh Chinese vegetables, frozen dumplings and the ever-popular bubble tea.

“We expect to have our grand-opening event within a month, but we wanted to work out the kinks before too many people started coming into the store,” said Jason Chou, one of the market’s owners.

James Chou, Jason’s father, said business from Yale students and affiliates during the store’s first two days was good, despite the lack of advance promotion.

“The Taiwanese people who were here yesterday said that they never thought they’d find a good store in this area in the future,” James Chou said. “They were so surprised.”

The Chou family began remodeling the former location of Heidi’s Uniform Store in April in preparation for their new market. The family’s in-laws and Royal Palace, the Chinese restaurant across the street, co-own the building.

In addition to twelve shelves of Asian ramen and instant soups, J-Mart offers a selection of tapioca bubble teas as well as a traditional coffee bar. The back of the store has a selection of live fish for sale, and the market has supplies of fresh Chinese vegetables delivered every morning from New York City’s Chinatown.

“We are a very fresh, healthy, clean and well-priced store,” James Chou said. “We hope everyone comes here.”

Michelle Jordan, a tenant of one of the Trader’s Block apartments above the store who traveled to China this summer, said she thinks the store was a positive sign for the area and New Haven.

“It’s an amazing market,” she said. “It really reminds me of everything I saw in China.”

Jason Chou said his family’s strong sense of Christian tradition inspired the store and its name.

“We wanted to set a good example and be a good testimony as business owners,” he said.

The Chou family’s first names — James, Jean, Jason, and new daughter-in-law Jeannie — all begin with “J,” a reference to Jesus that has been extended to both to the store’s name as well as its logo, a stylized blend of the letter and a fish.

For Jean and James Chou, the store is a retirement move. Before opening up shop in New Haven, Jean was a manager at Victoria’s Secret, James was president of the European division of NEC Computers and Jason worked as an engineer in Boston.

James said he plans to devote one of the market’s front windows to a bulletin board with advertisements and notices pertaining to both Yale’s and New Haven’s Asian-American community.

“We hope to become the Asian student center,” he said.

Yup Kim ’07, who is president of Korean-American Students at Yale, said he is unsure whether the new market will attract many Yale customers.

“In terms of a specific marketplace, I don’t know how much Yale’s Asian students would take advantage of that,” he said. “There are already markets that sell Chinese, Japanese and Korean foodstuffs, but I don’t know too many students taking advantage of those marketplaces.”

But Molly Kim ’09, who visited the store the day after its opening, said she is excited about the market and plans to return often.

“They carry a lot of products that I used to buy at the Korean markets in Los Angeles,” she said.

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