Ethnic markets on the rise in western suburbs
Photo by Chadwick Dolgos
Abdulkadir Chirambo, owner of East African Grocery in Stowe helping a customer.
By Chadwick Dolgos
If you’re in the mood for Russian, Turkish, European, or even African foods, two new international markets have recently opened for business in the western suburbs.
The markets join a variety of ethnic shops and restaurants already located within the Gazette 2.0 coverage area. Magnet International Market opened mid-October in the Robinson Town Centre, while the East African Market on Dohrman Street in Stowe Township opened the first weekend of November.
Robinson’s Magnet International Market specializes in Russian, Turkish, and European foods and beverages. They offer a variety of meats, ingredients for cooking, teas and desserts including baklava.
“We have over 400 different types of teas,” said Murat Zaynullaev, brother of the owner. “We also sell tea sets.”
The store offers an aisle completely dedicated to teapots and tea sets.
He explained that people’s curiosity alone has drawn attention to the new market. “Business is doing very well, and we haven’t even started advertising yet.”
When asked why they chose Robinson Township for their location, Zaynullaev simply responded, “We wanted a good area to open.”
They join Indian grocer Sunil Yendluri who opened Spice N Sabzi in the Town Centre in 2013.
Following its success, he opened Chutney’s — India’s Veg Kitchen restaurant next door and another grocery location in Wexford in 2018.
“Our store is more like a specialized store for all Indian groceries and other items related to Indian ethnicity,” said Yendluri, owner and manager.
“Customers will find different spices like turmeric cumin seeds, which I heard nowadays doctors are prescribing for diabetes,” he said.
Abdulkadir Chirambo opened East African Grocery in November, after months of struggling to open due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The store was supposed to open back in June or May,” said Chirambo.
“I was still paying the rent and all of that, so it pushed me back in an economic way and it pushed me back in starting my business.”
Chirambo told Gazette 2.0 that there were many reasons he chose Stowe Township for his location. “We live in McKees Rocks, so it’s closer to the community, and we don’t have a store like this one.”
East African Market offers a variety of frozen foods, herbs and spices specifically used to create East African dishes.
“[Customers] shall see whatever they would like to buy from here, and at a price that they can afford,” said Chirambo.
While East African Grocery is now open, Chirambo says business isn’t going exactly as anticipated.
“It’s not fast as the way it’s supposed to be,” he said, but remains hopeful that business will pick up following the pandemic.
Another small regional market and eatery specializing in authentic Mexican foods is La Poblanita in Coraopolis.
Owner Oscar Reyes opened the 4th Avenue taqueria in April 2017 and specializes in tacos.
“The food is really good; it’s fresh, seasoned well and filling,” said regular customer Chris Hendershot of Coraopolis, “...especially if you need good ingredients for Mexican cuisine.”
Another regular customer is Peter Jeffress of McKees Rocks, who loves the selections and says the staff is known for their friendliness and willingness to help.
“I always get the steak or the pineapple and pork taco. Both meats are flavorful and never overdone,” he said. “...Let’s be honest, you can’t get that kind of genuine Mexican food in a 10, 15, maybe even 20-mile radius.
Reyes is in the process of expanding the taqueria across the street inside the former ice cream stand at the corner of 4th Avenue and Watt Street.
A look at local demographics
Diversity in food markets and restaurants exist to serve the many communities located within Gazette 2.0’s readership area.
These markets and restaurants don’t just exist to serve targeted demographics, they are open to anyone interested in venturing into the world of new foods.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent population updates, accounting for Crafton, Coraopolis, Kennedy, McKees Rocks, Robinson and Stowe the demographic distribution of our readership area is as follows:
Black or African American 11.7%
Hispanic or Latino 1.8%
While statistics suggest only 3.6% of the designated area identifies as Asian, Hispanic or Latino, an additional 1.9% fall into the category of “other.”
Population counts don’t always capture the entire picture and these population sizes may actually be higher, said Frances Alonzo, public affairs specialist with the census bureau.
Some of the categories defined as “hard-to-count” include racial and ethnic minorities, non-English speakers and undocumented immigrants.
The Census Bureau makes every effort to count each individual, but certain circumstances increase difficulty.
“Many people fall under more than one of these designations,” Alonzo said.