By Ratna Wahyuningsih Herald Writer
EVERETT — The Mekong market, a downtown, family-owned Asian food store that had been open for almost 31 years, closed in January. Volunteers had hoped to reopen it as a nonprofit, but for now, at least, their effort has fallen short.
The volunteer group, called the Mekong Food Co-op, first met in February with the aim of keeping the business going at 2804 Grand Ave., on the alley behind the Sno-Isle Natural Foods Co-op. The group met monthly until May, when their efforts to raise capital and find volunteers were suspended, according to Kinuko Noborikawa, a founder and chair of the Mekong Food Co-Op.
“We were looking for people who were willing to pay a $100 membership fee for operating funds,” as well as volunteers to work in the store without compensation, Noborikawa said. But only a handful of people stepped forward.
The Mekong Co-op team figured they would need revenue of $200,000 per year to cover business expenses — but not salaries.
The store’s previous owner helped in the beginning with a supplier list and a client database of 250 names, Noborikawa said. But permits and the business license had expired.
According to the state Department of Revenue, the Mekong grocery was opened in 1981 by Thuy-Van Duong and her husband, Thanh-Thuc Pham. It closed this past Jan. 31. The couple could not be reached for comment.
“The owners, who ran the store for 32 years and worked seven days a week, decided to retire because they wanted to move downtown in Seattle, closer to their grandchildren,” Noborikawa said.
Mekong was different than other Asian stores. It sold Indonesian and Dutch products as well as vegan and halal foods — products prepared as prescribed by Muslim law.
There is still inventory in the store, Noborikawa said, some of which will be headed for a food bank or senior services in Snohomish County.
“For me, it’s just the reality, as we know that there are more Asian food stores in Snohomish County right now and it’s easy to get food such as rice at Safeway, and to shop for spices online,” she said. “So for a small store like this, they didn’t have enough volume to make it worthwhile to really keep going.”
The space occupied by Mekong market will be leased to someone else, the Everett Public Market building’s manager said. Meanwhile, Noborikawa said co-op members will keep in touch with each other and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.