If you want authentic Asian food products, a lot of the time you’ll have to drive to Eugene or Portland to get them. But one Central Oregon woman is seeking to change that.
Two weeks ago, Bend native Jessica Scott launched social media accounts for Tomi Mart, Bend’s first Asian market. The response was an outpouring of hundreds of comments and reactions across Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit.
“I knew people would be excited, but yeah, it spread like wildfire,” Scott told Central Oregon Daily News on Monday.
Comments were overwhelmingly positive.
“Beyond excited for this!”; “Just what this town needs!”; “Dreams really do come true!”; and “FINALLY!!!” were just a few of the enthusiastic responses.
“The direct messages that I got, some of them were pretty moving,” Scott said. “Some folks said they cried when they found out.”
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Tomi Mart was named after Scott’s daughter, Tomiko. Her partner, Adam, is half Japanese and his great grandmother shared the same name.
Opening the store was partially inspired by their time living abroad in both China and Japan.
“For me, it was a lot of not having the delicious food, but also kind of tapping into those cultural traditions that I kind of got used to celebrating and having access to,” Scott said. “With the growth of Bend and our population growing and getting more diverse, I think it was something that we really needed.”
Bend resident and Korean adoptee Kelli McMaster grew up with her adoptive family’s Japanese culture in the diversity of the California Bay Area.
She said moving to Central Oregon was a bit of a culture shock.
“We went from being able to pop down to an Asian market that was around the corner from my house to having to drive three hours to Portland to get certain vegetables or just certain ingredients for cooking things,” McMaster said.
She’s found community with other Korean adoptees in Bend, who put in orders with each other when someone goes to visit Portland.
“The Korean radishes are big and round and like oval shaped. Can’t find those here,” she said. “Certain types of peppers, certain types of like herbs or like wraps. You can’t buy them here.”
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When she heard about Tomi Mart, McMaster was thrilled, along with her family members.
“For kids to be able to see different food and maybe even see some different representation around town, it’s exciting to see and I’m excited for that growth in a place like this,” she said.
Scott hopes to start out the market as a cross between a convenience store and a supermarket.
“It won’t have quite the stock as a Fubonn or H-Mart or some superstore like that,” she said. “But it’ll be more than just your general convenience store. I want to make sure we have a lot of staples, and I want to cover Chinese, Korean, Japanese.”
Many people have been requesting items through social media and Scott hopes to create a formal request form soon as well.
She expects their initial products to include various noodles, soup bases, pre-made mixes, spices, and other staples.
It is disappointing, she said, that an Asian market has not been opened before this point.
“That’s such an important thing to be able to just be in your town and get the food that you want,” Scott said. “There’s been some people who have reached out and said, oh, I was going to move to Bend and I didn’t because there isn’t an Asian market, or there’s some folks in town who have thought about leaving or just feel so disconnected from the community just because there isn’t something like this.”
Though a location hasn’t yet been nailed down, Scott plans to open the brick-and-mortar store in the spring.
She will run pop-up shops in the meantime, starting on Friday, Oct. 21 at the Bend Moonlight Market. It takes place at Open Space Event Studios from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.
To stay up-to-date on the market’s progress, you can sign up at tomimartbend.com.