Shoppers in central New Jersey who are seeking out the festive foods associated with Chinese New Year have a new option.
Just a few weeks before the Jan. 28 launch of the lunar New Year celebration, the fast-growing Asian supermarket chain 99 Ranch opened its first East Coast location in Edison, N.J.
The 60,000-square-foot store, formerly a Pathmark, is the first of at least three 99 Ranch locations planned for the state in 2017. The chain, privately owned by Buena Park, Calif.-based Tawa Supermarket Inc., is scheduled to open a second New Jersey location in Jersey City within the coming weeks and another in Hackensack later this year.
“I think New Jersey will be a good location to expand our business development to the East Coast,” Tommy Chow, VP of marketing, told SN, citing the high percentage of Asian population in the state.
“The store has been well received by our customers,” he said. “We’ve had many good comments since we have opened the store in Edison, and sales performance has been steady.”
Consumers in the New York/New Jersey area who have visited 99 Ranch stores in other markets — the company has 42 additional locations in California, Washington, Nevada and Texas — have requested that the chain expand to the area, according to Chow.
Competing with H Mart
The new 99 Ranch is located just a mile from an H Mart, the Lyndhurst, N.J-based pan-Asian grocery chain than now operates more than 60 locations around the country. The two chains also operate in the Texas markets of Dallas and Houston, as well as on the West Coast. Both 99 Ranch and H Mart are slated to open stores this year in Austin, Texas, according to local reports.
Although 99 Ranch focuses on product from China, its stores are known for their broad assortment of foods from other Asian countries as well, including the Philippines and India. The stores also feature a variety of Asian prepared foods, including noodle dishes and congee made in-store. (H Mart, meanwhile, tends to tout its Korean influences.)
The new 99 Ranch in Edison also features live seafood, and will fry or steam fish for customers in the store, Chow told SN.
Another distinctive feature of 99 Ranch is its rewards program. Customers can earn a $1 coupon for use in the deli or bakery for each $20 spent at the register. Coupons are doubled when customers spend $60 or more on a weekday and $80 or more on Saturday or Sunday.
“That program is very successful in California,” said Chow, adding that 99 Ranch also offers a 5% discount for seniors.
Supply from California
99 Ranch is in the process of securing local supply for the Edison store, and will be trucking some product across the country from its California warehouses to the Edison store at first, said Chow.
“Most likely, we will be purchasing from local vendors in New Jersey,” he said. “But, we’ve only been open a few weeks, so we still continue to ship some products from California, until we can get enough supply from local vendors.”
The company procures much of its product from overseas, but Chow said he’s not concerned at this point about threats of new “border taxes” under the Trump administration.
“In the short term, I don’t think that will be a problem, because we already have good inventory of our products from Asian countries,” he said. “But in the long term, it depends how Trump’s policy will apply to the whole industry.”