MANCHESTER - Tony Luong, who's Vietnamese, shops weekly at the Saigon Asian Market, walking out last week with four bags stuffed with vegetables, rice and other items. Coffee from Vietnam is his favorite for its stronger taste.
"Some stuff you don't have at Stop & Shop, you don't have at Hannaford and you don't have at Market Basket," Luong said last week outside the South Maple Street store.
But Luong will need to drive to Nashua, at least temporarily, as the market's last day in Manchester is today. .
"It's sad it has to close here," said Thanh Ho, whose family owns the two markets.
The store's lease ran out last spring, and the landlord informed him the market needed to vacate the space by mid-September. So at 7:30 p.m. today, the store will close and soon shift its merchandise to its other store at 33 Pine St., in Nashua.
Ho said Friday he was negotiating to buy a building that is "very, very close," to South Maple Street that would offer more store space. He doesn't know when a new Manchester location might open.
The market was on Valley Street for about a year before calling South Maple Street its home the past 11 years. The business was profitable, with nearly two-thirds of its overall sales coming from the Manchester store. He said at least a few employees will be laid off.
Manchester resident Jean-Claude Prevot, who teaches private cooking lessons, said he will miss the store but plans to drive to Nashua.
"They really are the only one that's original," Prevot said. "They're dedicated to their ethnic society, and they're very valuable."
He sometimes shops at the market three times in a week, walking out last week with lemon grass, rice flour and jicama, a sweet root vegetable.
"They're friendly, and I like to help the little guy," Prevot said.
Ho said customers drive from Maine, the North Country and Massachusetts to purchase goods at the Manchester store that often aren't found in typical supermarkets. The store's offerings include a wide choice of seafood, corned beef from Australia and canned squid in soy sauce from Thailand to name a few.
John D'Amico, who lives in Auburn, Mass., was in the area on business last week. He bought noodles, hoison sauce and Chinese cooking wine. "It's hard to find in Masachusetts," he said.
Ho is optimistic a Manchester store will return.
"I don't want to move away from where I am now," he said. "This is a place I built all my customers."