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Ethnic grocery stores topic at EDC

Whether or not Farragut residents want, or would support, an ethnic grocery store was the question Economic Development Committee members have discussed at numerous meetings over the past few months.

The concept originated in EDC member Naoko Blue’s idea that Farragut try to recruit a Japanese grocery store, Mitsuwa. Blue, who runs a business that caters to area residents of Japanese descent, said many of her clients travel to the closest Mitsuwa for certain foods.

The closest is in Chicago.

“Japanese and Asian food is becoming more popular in this area. I thought it would be a proper fit,” Blue said at the EDC’s September meeting.

But Ram Suga, who was raised in India, said he’d like the EDC to look at recruiting an ethnic grocery store — one that would cater to a wider array of ethnicities and cultures.

“There’s a lot more draw to it,” he said.

“That’s an interesting concept we should explore,” EDC chair Ginny McLain-Tate said.

She asked Blue and Suga to return to the next meeting with estimates of how many shoppers such a grocery store would attract, and perhaps to feel out if ethnic or Japanese grocery stores would be interested in a location in Farragut.

At the EDC’s Oct. 5 meeting, the group’s business recruitment and retention subcommittee reported back on the issue, after EDC member David Purvis said the EDC “needed to get moving a little bit” after taking heat for inactivity in local news publications.

Blue said she’d called Mitsuwa headquarters in California and was informed that for Farragut to be seriously considered, the EDC would need to furnish an extensive demographic study.

Blue said that would include the estimated number of Japanese customers within an eight-hour driving radius of Farragut, plus a list of Japanese-based businesses in the area.

“So it’s realistic that someone from Atlanta would come to Farragut to shop here?” Phil Dangel asked.

Blue said a Japanese person would.

Suga chimed in, calling such a store a “cultural center type of thing where people shop and eat.”

“Is this some place I would shop?” Dangel asked.

Blue said that in California, Mitsuwa attracted about a 50/50 mix of Japanese customers and those of other ethnicities, including Caucasians.

Jim Holladay said even if Mitsuwa or another large ethnic market chain decided not to locate in Farragut, a local entrepreneur could open such a business.

“The financing of those things is very easy right now,” Dangel said. “Go in to your local bank and ask for money. They’re certainly willing to back you on start-up projects.”

No recommendation was made.


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