And learn Chinese while you’re at it.
So New York Mart officially opened Jan. 29 in Flushing. You may remember that some Flushing residents were not pleased at the presence of yet another “Asian” grocery store. Despite the fact that the previous “American” store folded for lack of business.
Some residents complained that New York Mart did not meet their needs. For example, they needed pet food. Apparently they had never been in the store, because a manager stated that New York Mart did in fact carry pet food.
New York Mart also added a deli after receiving complaints. A store manager noted in an interview that they even carry Oreos. But nothing is enough for those people!
“I’m not asking for all American products, but just a reasonable selection,” said Mary Ann Boroz, a longtime Flushing resident who had started a petition to keep the Key Food open on Roosevelt Ave. “We’d like to see a 50-50 split.”
You may remember that Boroz previously demanded that a full line of foods encompassing “all ethnic groups” be available. So how is that 50-50 thing going to work? How would you determine that 50 percent of your vegetables are Asian? And will Chinese people be allowed to purchase Oreos?
Boroz additionally had these complaints:
After visiting the store, Boroz said too many of its products are Chinese, the deli is insufficient and many of the products’ packages do not have English translations.
How many of the “American” products have Chinese translations? Since we’re being all 50-50 here.
As somebody who cannot read much Chinese, I haven’t had any real difficulty in the Chinese grocery store. I can’t think of anything that didn’t have an English label. But if I didn’t know what it was, I probably wouldn’t buy it anyway.
But maybe it’s just the presence of all that Chinese that bugs Boroz. Complaints about non-English signs are commonplace in the United States and apparently that bothers Boroz as well:
“A lot of the complaints we get don’t necessarily stem just from lack of English signage — a lot of it also comes from a feeling that many English-speaking customers don’t necessarily feel welcome when they walk into a store without English-speaking employees,” [State Assemblywoman Grace] Meng said.
Many residents and members of the board, including Mary Ann Boroz, who has lived in Flushing for 33 years, believe the issue will not be addressed unless legislation is passed requiring that all stores post English signs. Boroz said she does not even shop in downtown Flushing anymore because she does not feel welcome there.
“I really don’t see any progress with the stores. I’m beginning to think they’re not going to voluntarily use English. So what choice is there other than to make it mandatory?” she asked. “I don’t want to sound racist or bigoted, but we have to remember where we are, we’re in the United States of America … and Asian people are not the only people who want to shop here.”
Just a tip … If you start a sentence with “I don’t want to sound racist,” you probably already know you’re going there. Additionally, that preface doesn’t undo any of your racism or bigotry.
Boroz organized meetings with New York Mart owners and elected officials about the issue. She said the language barrier has also been a problem.
“We were hoping they would hire more people from the neighborhood, not just Asians,” said Boroz. “No one speaks English.”
Well, Boroz has already said she doesn’t shop in downtown Flushing since she doesn’t feel welcome. So apparently she isn’t aware that many of the New York Mart employees speak both English and Chinese and some speak Spanish as well.
Our America is changing. And I’m learning Chinese.