Business

New Asian grocery store debuts in West Boise. Among its offerings: exotic blue crabs

Shoppers eye produce at the Idaho Capital Asian Market in Boise. The grocery store held a soft opening a couple of weeks ago and is continuing to add new products and getting fresh meat and seafood cases ready.
Shoppers eye produce at the Idaho Capital Asian Market in Boise. The grocery store held a soft opening a couple of weeks ago and is continuing to add new products and getting fresh meat and seafood cases ready. jsowell@idahostatesman.com

Ever since the Idaho Capital Asian Market opened a couple of weeks ago, the grocery store at Cole and Ustick roads has been unable to keep blue crabs in stock.

Blue crabs? In Idaho?

The smallish crustaceans, cousins to the giant Dungeness crabs found on the Pacific coast, are harvested from the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. They’re rarely found this far west.

“We have them flown in from Louisiana a couple times a week,” store manager Dillon Luo said as he stood Thursday near an empty rack, where the only evidence of the crabs was a sign saying “Blue crabs, $5.99 a pound.”

“The Chinese and Vietnamese people, especially, like crab,” Luo said.

The market is going through a soft opening, with a grand opening scheduled in a couple of months. Customers have found out about the soft opening by driving by and from word of mouth, said Marcus Tam, an agent with Boise Premiere Real Estate who represents the owners, China Town Plaza LLC of Murray, Utah.

The market is part of the Idaho Asian Plaza, formerly known as Library Plaza for the Boise branch library next to the store.

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The Idaho Capital Asian Market opened two weeks ago at 3107 N. Cole Road. The grocery store is part of the Idaho Asian Plaza, which will eventually include other Asian stores and restaurants, along with an Asian-style gate and pagoda-style roofs on the shopping center’s five buildings. John Sowell jsowell@idahostatesman.com

“We have received a lot of early support from the Asian community, and on the weekend we have a lot of non-Asian customers coming in,” Tam said.

Fresh meat and seafood cases have been installed but haven’t been filled. Luo hopes to have the meat case ready within the next few weeks and the seafood case ready this spring.

The store has 14,000 square feet in what formerly was a Jo-Ann Fabric shop. It has many of the same staples found in other Asian markets throughout the Treasure Valley. But there are other items, such as several types of fresh noodles, not found in those stores.

The Idaho Capital Asian Market carries six varieties of fresh noodles, each named after a city in China or Taiwan. Chendu, Shandong and Shanghai noodles are similar to spaghetti in varying circumferences, while Shanxi is like fettuccine, Lanzhou like ramen and Taiwan like linguine.

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The Idaho Capital Asian Market carries six varities of fresh noodles, including this ramen variety, a staple of Lanzhou, China. John Sowell jsowell@idahostatesman.com

The company spent $750,000 to remodel the grocery store, which formerly held a Jo-Ann Frabric store. Another $250,000 is being spent to create an Asian-style gate and for pagoda-themed roofs on the shopping center’s five

The shopping center plans to attract other Asian stores and restaurants. It is similar to a project the company developed in South Salt Lake City, Utah. There, the Chinatown Supermarket opened in 2012 with restaurants, an Asian gift store and a kung fu studio. A grocery store opened two years later.

“We have several restaurants confirmed coming in: Chinese-style, Japanese-style, Korean-style, Vietnamese-style,” said Tam, who expects them to open next spring. “And we’re hoping to bring in an Indian restaurant and a dim sum restaurant.”

The opening of the Idaho Capital Asian Market follows two other Asian groceries that opened this year in Boise. Trade Viet, a Vietnamese store, opened in January at 10539 W. Overland Road. And Mandalay Asian Market, specializing in foods from Southeast Asia and Myanmar, opened earlier this month in a 1,000-foot storefront kitty-corner to Trade Viet, at 10658 W. Overland.

The crabs will return by this weekend, Luo said.

Reporter John Sowell has worked for the Statesman since 2013. He covers business and growth issues. He grew up in Emmett and graduated from the University of Oregon.

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