Chinatown vendors shrug off T&T market



The owner of Oriental Plus Market, ViengKhone Tang, is not worried about the impact of the new T & T Supermarket on her business.

The wait is over. T&T Supermarket opened its doors this week, offering Ottawa residents a new venue to purchase Asian foods and goods, but it’s still too  early to tell if this new suburban grocery store will take a major bite out of business in Chinatown.

T&T, which is owned by Loblaws and is located in Ottawa’s south end, is the city’s newest one-stop-shopping spot for goods from all across Asia, brought together in a big-box format.

The supermarket carries a large variety of Asian fruits, vegetables, meats and baked goods, alongside the basic staples present in all mainstream supermarkets.

“It’s just another Loblaws store,” says Grace Xin, executive director of the Chinatown BIA.

“For me it’s apples and oranges. Chinatown is a village, with residents, visitors, churches, and community centres. It’s not just another shopping mall.”

Viengkhone Tang, owner of Oriental Plus Market, opened her store two weeks before T&T. She says all stores will be affected, but some more than others.

Tang has tried to differentiate her store by turning it into half-supermarket, half-Thai take-out restaurant.

She says she is not too worried about the loss of business to the giant upstart.

“In the beginning they will take a lot of people away,” says Tang. “But after a little while things will get back to normal.”

Although previously the lure of T&T’s Toronto stores has been large enough to attract customers from Ottawa and even Montreal, the new supermarket can’t lure Eva Russell.

“I always come here,” says Russell, just outside of Kowloon Market, a major Chinatown grocery store. “Just because it’s local, we live in the area, and we always like to support local business.”

Nadia Kharyati, of Chinatown’s Raw Sugar Café, says T&T won’t be the death of Chinatown because it’s a tight-knit community.

“People are pretty loyal to their stores, they know where they can go," Kharyati says. "So why would they drive all that way to get something they can get here?”