Nova Scotia’s growing Asian population getting taste of home at new grocery stores

Inspired by a fast-growing Asian population, more businesses are choosing Halifax to set up specialty grocery stores that provide the comforts of home.

In the past five years, India and China have been among the top-ranked countries that have seen people moving to Nova Scotia.

It’s a trend that has been the catalyst for the opening of new stores in the city.

Former Dalhousie University student Zeeshan Khan opened Bombay Bazaar in Park Lane Mall on Dec. 1.

“I noticed there was a growing population of southeast Asian students, especially coming from India and Pakistan,” Khan said. “I saw that there was a gap for such a store here, especially downtown.”

More specialty food stores opening in N.S. as Asian population grows

In the past few months, new specialty stores that carry products from both India and China have opened in Halifax. As the CBC’s Gareth Hampshire found out, businesses say it’s good timing to offer the tastes of home.

The 23-year-old describes his business as the “complete Desi store,” carrying products like snacks, frozen foods, spices and tea from across India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Many of his clients are students who live downtown, he said. 

“They can actually go and find stuff that they are very familiar with, from home,” Khan said.

Indian Groceries on Robie Street, which is believed to be the first Indian store in the region, is also seeing more customers who are new to Nova Scotia.

Harkrit Singh, who works at the store, says more people are showing up to his local temple as well.

“I think we need a bigger store now because the population is growing, but the thing is, it’s hard to find a very nice location, so we’re trying to find a nice location and a little bigger store,” Singh said. 

A man wearing a black turban and hoodie is shown looking at the camera with Indian snacks and spices on the store shelves behind him.
Harkrit Singh says Indian Groceries is running out of room to stock all of its supplies and is now looking for a bigger space. (CBC)

Several new stores showcasing Chinese culture have also popped up in the past few years, with New Asian Food Market being a recent addition to Chain Lake Drive in October.

It has fresh fruits and vegetables, seafood and a food court.

“We considered other cities, but Toronto and Vancouver already [have] so many stores, but in Halifax there are only several Asian stores,” said Jiukui Zhao, who works in customer service at the location.

While already attracting people from China and other countries like the Philippines, the store is also getting support from local people in search of something new.

Halina St. James recently purchased roast duck from the new store.

“I have not had roast duck here in Halifax for ages — I’ve been to the Far East and I’ve worked in China,” she said. “We are coming of age here in Halifax.”

A man is shown wearing a black vest among fruits and vegetables in an Asian grocery store in Halifax.
Jiukui Zhao says Halifax, with its fast-growing Chinese population and less competition than in other Canadian cities, is an ideal location for New Asian Food Market. (CBC)

Also on Chain Lake Drive is another Asian store, Union Atlantic Foodmart, which arrived on the scene in late 2022.

Grocery manager Wing Chow expects competition between the stores.

“It’s good for customers and good for Halifax,” Chow said.

It’s the customers, Khan says, that he enjoys most about his new store. Students and families from India and neighbouring countries have become regulars so far.

“There’s like a smile that grows on their face. That kind of inspires us.”

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