Buddhas & Jackfruit

Asian groceries

v i s u a l i z i n g   i m m i g r a n t   P h o e n i x

Crystal Cespedes

November 2016

To visualize immigrant Phoenix is to know there is a diverse migrant population in the Valley. Looking to places of commerce gives an in-depth awareness of the people that make up the Valley’s population. LF Market Oriental & Seafood is an international themed grocery store that showcases diverse consumer products from produce to religious shrines. LF Market is located on 5350 W Bell Road in the city of Glendale, where the Hispanic population is 24.84%, according to Glendale Arizona Population and Demographics Resources website. These demographics show that the Asian population makes up 2.74% and other races make up 11.97% of Glendale residents. Many people might imagine, based on the Glendale demographics, that this Asian market would not have the consumer base to be viable. But the success of this international market shows that there is a desire for these products and suggests that the population of Glendale is as diverse as the products that stock the shelves of LF Market. LF Market has enough consumers purchasing its international products to keep not only this location open but also its sister store, Lam’s Oriental & Seafood market.

Lam’s Oriental & Seafood Market is located on 6740 W Indian School Rd, Phoenix. Lam’s is named after the owner, Mr. Lam, who opened his first Asian grocery market more than 25 years ago, according to a store employee. The goal for the store according to Lam's website, is to provide customer service for people from around the world. Not only do both stores have Asian market staples, but they each have a small selection of consumer products that come from China, Philippines, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, South America, Burma, India, Jamaica, Cambodia and Africa.

These markets are unlike the big supermarket chains of Fry’s or Sprouts, so the typical cookie cutter shopping experience is not what you will find here. The markets’ unique atmosphere and products are what sets their shopping experience apart. Hanging from the LF’s ceiling above the entrance and exit is a beautiful installation of umbrellas with painted coral fish and Asian red lanterns. Red Asian dragons and other colorful store decorations hang throughout LF aisles. Offerings of incense and fruit are placed at different locations throughout both stores.

At first glance, the produce may seem overripe, with diverse fruits such as jackfruit, Asian pears, green apples, and cantaloupe, but for international customers this produce is perfect. Lam’s is decorated with small and large Buddha statues and bamboo stalks, which are placed by the cashiers on top of store products. Red dragon decorations and red lanterns along with other colorful paper decorations, hang from the ceiling, similar to LF Oriental Seafood Market.

Supporting small businesses by shopping at LF Market and Lam’s Market helps to foster the connection between migrant owned businesses and the established population. Glendale and the Valley’s population is not just Hispanic and White. These markets are evidence of the diverse ethnicities that populate the communities metropolitan Phoenix. Migrants’ adaptation of commerce only gives part of the picture of migrant origins and the communities they chose to make their home. At the local level, the integration of migrants’ needs and desires into their chosen communities has to be a collaborative process amongst immigrants and their designated communities. Local government needs to encourage existing efforts and develop more strategies for implementing such integration.