Originally created 02/03/05

Grocery caters to Chinese tastes



The great wall barring cultural cuisine slowly is crumbling for Augusta's Chinese community, thanks to Jin Long grocery.

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ZhiGuo (Richard) Miao and his wife, SuFeng (Sophia) Tian, opened Jin Long in July. The ethnic shop is in the back of Tracy's Choice in the Wal-Mart shopping center on Bobby Jones Expressway.

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The couple, who are from Shandong, China, said their store can satisfy the needs of those who used to have to go to Atlanta to find the ingredients for traditional Chinese cuisine.

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"Many of them will patronize other local Asian stores with the packaging they'd kept, wanting the very Chinese brand," said Mr. Miao, 33. "But the other stores mostly carry non-Chinese labels or ingredients from a different company. So I stock goods that are more familiar and suited for the Chinese palate."

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The couple moved here from Atlanta, where they interned at the Crowne Plaza Hotel for the past few years.

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Wanting his own business, Mr. Miao chose to open the store in Augusta because of the large number of competitors in Atlanta and the growing population of Chinese here. The 2000 census show about 3,000 Chinese in the area. Those numbers, along with the constant flow of Chinese studying at the Medical College of Georgia, provide a strong, stable base for the business, he said.

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The market, which is open seven days a week, is deceptive because of its size, as customer Gek Eng Ng, 65, recently found out.

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Bags of grains, sweets, sauces, household goods and dry ingredients share floor space with 10 freezers and one cooler.

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Frozen items such as duck and dumplings are organized in the freezers.

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Boxes filled with vegetables are stacked beside the shelves and in the cooler. All the items are labeled in Mandarin Chinese and English.

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Along with traditional Chinese goods, the store offers commodities for other Asian cultures, including a Philippine version of a barbecue sandwich called sio pao (pronounced "show pow").

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"We're not a large store, but we take the time to wash and clean our vegetables, and our store is neat and clean for the customers," Mr. Miao said.

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Ms. Ng was pleased to find familiar ingredients so she would no longer have to go without her favorite dishes.

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That's why he opened the shop, Mr. Miao said.

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"I consider it a public service," he said. "These are vegetables they cannot get elsewhere in Augusta. When the vegetables are not as fresh, I have to sell them at a discount. But at least the customers who wants these vegetables gets to eat them."

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There are even incense and joss papers used for special religious and cultural occasions. Ms. Tian said they have stocked special items for the Chinese New Year, which will be celebrated Wednesday.

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The store has a variety of traditional Chinese lucky candy including Li Shi, a fruit-flavored, hard-shelled candy with a soft, vanilla-flavored center.

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"Many of the New Year's items have names that mean good luck, better business and sayings that mean higher (lifting a person to the next tier in life)," she said.

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Along with the candy, the store has candied fruit platters called Nian Gao.

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The store also sells Chinese newspapers that are printed in Atlanta. Mr. Miao picks them up when he makes his weekly run for supplies.

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The couple said they plan to move the store in the future so that they can expand and offer a larger variety of goods, including a fish market.

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"I was very happy when this place opened," customer Kathy Dunn said in Chinese. "It's so much more convenient now. I even get to see friends whom I've not seen in a while."

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Presentation editor Ling Low contributed to this article.

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Jin Long

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Owners: ZhiGuo (Richard) Miao and SuFeng (Sophia) Tian

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Where: 592 Bobby Jones Expressway, Suite 8, Anderson Plaza

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Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 12:45 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday

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Phone: 868-8498

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