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3/23/2010 7:25:00 PM
International grocery to open on Indianapolis southside

Joseph S. Pete, Daily Journal of Johnson County

Southside residents won't need to travel far to find Korean kimchi, the fruit quince and tandoori nan bread after a new southside grocery opens.

Saraga International Grocery plans to open a second Indianapolis location in a strip mall at Madison Avenue and Stop 11 Road. The grocery offers imported products such as spices and exotic vegetables from Asia, Europe, Latin America, India, the Middle East, the Caribbean and Africa.

Owners Jong Sung and Bong Jae Sung run a 62,000-square-foot grocery in a former Kmart on the westside. That store carries hundreds of spices and more than 40,000 products from dozens of countries.

Saraga makes fresh kimchi on site, has a halal meat department with fresh goat and lamb and carries seafood such as eel and shark meat. Most products on the aisles are labeled in foreign languages.

Greenwood has a Mexican grocery store and two Indian groceries that cater to the city's growing Punjabi population. But the area has nothing like Saraga, which stocks a wide array of international fare such as peanut sauce for Filipino dishes, Thai fish crackers, dal lentils and European wafers, Jong Sung said.

Saraga attracts many customers who don't belong to any ethnic group because of its wide variety, Jong Sung said. Often, customers want to learn about other cultures, sample unusual foods or try new recipes or spices, he said.

People now travel from Carmel and Fishers to Saraga's westside store to find a single ingredient they need but can't get elsewhere, he said.

The Sung brothers got their start by running Saraga Asian Market in Bloomington. They sold the store and opened the larger one in Indianapolis in 2005. They modeled their new business after large international markets that were springing up on the East Coast, such as the New Jersey-based H-Mart chain of Asian groceries, Jong Sung said.

The international grocer plans to expand to the southside but not to any other location in the metropolitan area for the time being. Saraga wants an outpost near Greenwood that's more convenient to many current customers, some of whom now drive 30 minutes or more to buy items such as masala spices, Jong Sung said.

"The Greenwood area is a good location," he said. "We want to be near where people shop. It's a strong area."

The southside location won't have as wide a selection as the Saraga store on Lafayette Road because it will occupy 15,291 square feet, Jong Sung said. The new store will be more of a neighborhood grocery and won't have a food court that sells Mexican, Japanese and Korean cuisine like the westside location, he said.

About 20 workers will be employed at the Madison Avenue store.

An extensive produce section will stock items now rarely found locally, such as mangos, dragon fruit, plantains and apple bananas, Jong Sung said.

The southside store will face less competition from specialized ethnic grocers, which have cropped up in recent years around Saraga in the Lafayette Square Mall area, he said.

"We want to survive," he said. "This will be a good place to go to."

Contractors are finishing renovations in the space at 2308 E. Stop 11 Road. Jong Sung said he hopes to open the store next month.






Editor, John C. DePrez Jr.; Executive Editor, Carol Rogers; Publishers: IBRC and IAR


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