Oriental Market made a name for itself providing hard-to-find international food for East Lansing residents. The store recently rebranded as Fresh International Market in an effort to expand its selection and welcome a whole new customer base.
Recently, the store went through extensive renovations. Besides a cosmetic upgrade, Fresh International Market also added a food court, 7 A.M. Bakery and a juice bar. It also expanded its seafood, meat and produce department.
“We are offering Chinese street food such as BBQ lamb sticks, steam bum. The shapu shapu will also be available after the pandemic,” said owner Bowen Kou. “Our Cantonese BBQ, duck and chicken are authentic and we make them daily.”
Fresh International Market also partnered with the local sushi restaurant, Sansu, to sell to-go sushi rolls.
Rebranding was a practical move on Kou’s part. He owns other Fresh International Market locations in Michigan, Indiana and Illinois. Changing the name from Oriental Mart to Fresh International Market is part of his effort to establish his brand across the Midwest.
The name change is also an indicator that the store is going in a new direction. Kou said that he plans to carry food from all around the world and focus less on Asian food.
So far, the renovations have been popular with customers. He said that he’s noticed a steady stream of new, positive reviews on the store’s Google webpage.
“We are working hard to gain more business in our community and so far we are happy with the result,” said Kou. “We will keep improving our store and try to earn more business.”
The COVID outbreak reduced the number of international students coming into East Lansing to study at Michigan State University. Kou admitted that — due to the decreased number of international students and the increase in the number of students taking classes online — the store has lost some customers. But he considers East Lansing home and wants to do his best to stay there.
“Since I went to Michigan State for college in 2009, I always consider East Lansing to be my hometown,” explained Kou. “It is crucial and means a lot to us to get members of the community to support locally owned businesses like us.”
Kou is most excited to introduce his customers to the 7 A.M. Bakery, which offers traditional Taiwanese/Chinese pastries like green onion bread, buns with pork floss and brown sugar cake.
To new customers, he has a bit of advice.
“You may see some vegetables, fruits, snacks and drinks you never saw before. Don’t hesitate to ask our staff questions,” he urged. “A lot of the time, our staff is able to make some recommendations, and you may end up falling in love with our products.