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Flushing's Chinese grocers are a magnet for bargain-hunters



Tuesday, May 13th 2008, 4:00 AMchinese grocer

Budget-conscious shoppers have become a boon to some Queens businesses.

Thanks to the belt-tightening brought by rising food and fuel costs, Chinese grocers in Flushing - known for their affordable produce - have seen a surge of non-Chinese shoppers, owners said.

"The prices are good; that's why I come here," said Raju Raju, 27, outside Sunrise Food Market at 40-33 Main St.

He said he travels from Jamaica whenever he can to stock up for his household of eight and avoids supermarkets, if possible.

"I know it's much cheaper [here] than there," he said, as he filled plastic bags with fruit.

The variety and quality makes the trip worth it, he said.

"Sometimes, the supermarkets, they don't have any of this stuff," Raju said. "If they do, it's drier than dry."

Audrey Clarke, 40, an executive assistant, shops at Chang Jiang Supermarket on Kissena Blvd. between her subway trip and her bus ride home to get deals on fruit, vegetables and fish.

"Regular grocery stores are losing a lot of sales to the stores out here," she said.

Asked whether it was worth the trip, Clarke said: "If you're going to save money with the economy being the way it is, yes."

Store owner David Chen guessed that 30% to 40% of his business was from non-Chinese buyers.

"The prices here are very competitive, usually cheaper," than at chain supermarkets, he said.

Purchasing in large quantities - he buys produce with three other store owners - helps keep prices low, he said. Another trick is to buy directly from farms.

Though prices have gone up in Flushing, too, it is still "relatively cheaper" than other areas, said Peter Koo, a pharmacy owner and president of the Flushing Chinese Business Association.

"More people see value when they come here," he said.

But there are downsides.

The trip from Jamaica is too far for Dorette Campbell, 46, to haul a full grocery load, so she sticks to fish.

"It's fresher here," and cheaper, she said.

And John Fenico, 40, who lives nearby, said he felt "like an outsider" looking for salad dressing at Chang Jiang.

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