The business name is as simple as it gets: Santa Fe Asian Market.
A photo was posted Dec. 8 on the Santa Fe Foodies Facebook page, and more than 60 salivating comments were forthcoming the same day.
“O.M.G.,” wrote Andrea Abedi, co-owner of The Kitchen Table, a Santa Fe commercial kitchen that is expected to open in June.
Abedi told The New Mexican an Asian market could lead to more Asian restaurants opening in Santa Fe.
“Fingers crossed,” she said. “We need more Asian restaurants. I use a lot of Asian products in my food. We wouldn’t have to go to Albuquerque anymore.”
“OK. This is huge,” wrote Alfred Wasilewski, who moved to Santa Fe in November 2020 and frequently posts photos of his gourmet home cooking on the Santa Fe Foodies page.
“I am certainly going to be making a beeline over there when they open,” Wasilewski told The New Mexican. “One of the things I missed moving here from New Jersey is having access to an Asian market. That’s been a shortfall here. It works to enhance the city’s reputation as a foodie town.”
Santa Fe Asian Market could open in January at 1644 St. Michael’s Drive, in the former Santa Fe Area Chamber of Commerce office space at the St. Michael’s Village West shopping center.
Owner Ngunduhcung Thianhlun — he goes by David — plans to have more than 800 types of items, including fish, pork, chicken, jasmine and sushi rice, seaweed, Asian produce, rice paper, preserved pickles, instant noodles, Asian sauces, ice creams and drinks. For now, however, no prepared foods.
“Every time a customer comes in and asks for something, I’ll get it,” Thianhlun said.
Thianhlun, 29, and his mother also operate Sushi Avenue inside the Smith’s Marketplace in Los Alamos, where they live.
Like all Asian restaurateurs in Northern New Mexico, Thianhlun relies on food shipments or drives to Albuquerque because there is no Asian market in Santa Fe.
“I think it will be great if we can get things locally instead of from Albuquerque,” said Chow Asian Bistro owner Jason Zeng. “It will save us a lot of headaches. If we run out of anything, which is often, you have to go to Albuquerque.”
Fortune Maki owner Yushuang Li has much of her ingredients shipped in from out of state.
“Some small items we get from Albuquerque,” Li said. “The items I need, I would be happy to have something here. Depending on price, I will get things from [Santa Fe Asian Market] instead of the food company.”
A Santa Fe Asian market has been on Thianhlun’s mind since opening the sushi eatery in Los Alamos in 2018. He and his mother and stepfather had already gone through initial steps to open an Asian market in 2016 when they were living in Midland, Texas, but the store did not come to fruition.
The Thianhluns are natives of Myanmar, which they fled as refugees in 2009. The first stop was Malaysia, where David’s father died.
He, his mother and his sister continued their refugee path to Dallas, where David finished high school.
They moved to Midland in 2011 and then started their first sushi operation inside a King Soopers supermarket in Colorado Springs.
“A friend in Chicago had a friend who managed the property in Los Alamos with Smith’s,” Thianhlun said.
Thianhlun discovered that the sushi operator contract at Smith’s Marketplace was expiring and that he could produce twice the dollar volume in Los Alamos compared with Colorado Springs. This year, he started looking for space in Santa Fe.
“I just Google-searched retail space,” he said. “As I searched, I found Matt.”
The market will be within steps of Annapurna’s World Vegetarian Cafe, Anthony’s Grill and Santa Fe Bite, as an effort was made to get eclectic tenants, said Matt O’Reilly, vice president at Thomas Properties, which owns the St. Michael’s Village West shopping center.
“We’re very happy to have them,” O’Reilly said. “We jumped at the opportunity to get them in there.”