Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz and West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor toured Maruichi Japanese Food & Deli in Blue Back Square on Wednesday, the final day of AAPI Heritage Month.
By Ronni Newton
Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz has been visiting a variety of businesses throughout the state in celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, and her final stop was at Maruichi Japanese Food & Deli in West Hartford’s Blue Back Square.
There she had a tour conducted by Joshua Nakama, VP of Fuji Mart Corp – the parent company of Maruichi – and was joined by West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor. Neither could resist purchasing some of the store’s unique products, including a specialty soy sauce.
Maruichi, which opened in December 2016, offers a wide selection of food items and groceries many of which have been imported directly from Japan, or are produced by Japanese companies in the U.S. They have fresh produce, meats, fish, and sushi, as well as prepackaged items, prepared foods, make-your-own ramen kits, bento boxes, bubble tea, and more.
“It’s half and half,” Nakama said of the sales of the fresh products vs. packaged items. “A lot of people love the grab and go,” he said, but those who like to cook appreciate being able to find specific ingredients at Maruichi that might not be available elsewhere.
Maruichi has a store in Stamford and several other locations – including two in Brookline right outside Boston (Nakama is the the manager of one of those) and another in Arlington, Massachusetts, and he said at those stores they sell more fresh fruits and other produce. The Blue Back Square store is directly across the street from Whole Foods so there are items they don’t duplicate, and the stores complement each other.
Nakama, who is half Japanese, said his father is from Okinawa and he has been to Japan many times. He helped open the Blue Back store, and said it’s done a good business all along. They did plenty of grab and go during the pandemic, he said.
“This has been a great location for us. The community really supports us,” he said.
Bysiewicz noted that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders comprise one of the state’s fastest growing communities, and Nakama said the West Hartford area’s diversity was an appeal to the business when they were looking to expand. And while there are other retailers that offer Asian products, he said they don’t have a wide selection of Japanese products.
Bysiewicz asked Nakama if they had every considered New Haven for another store location, and he said they had scouted out places but while there were spots that might do well when college students were around, they didn’t want a place that would not see business at other times of the year.
Nakama pointed out some of the unique products at Maruichi, including a beverage that has a marble in its top that pops down when it’s opened and activates the carbonation. There are candies, and anime products.
Several rows of a section of the store are devoted to soy sauces, and Nakama said there are various levels of quality, with the best types made from whole soybeans and naturally having a lot less sodium. The darker the color, the more intense the flavor, he said. “A little goes a long way,” he cautioned Bysiewicz and Cantor, who both purchased “the champagne of soy sauce” and were excited to try it.
Bysiewicz, who said she loves to cook but had not previously been to Maruichi, said she was “happy to find there’s a beautiful place to shop so close to work.”
Cantor said Maruichi is an asset to the neighborhood. “It’s a great product, and you really carry a lot of wonderful things,” she said.
Earlier in May, Gov. Ned Lamont also visited a West Hartford business to mark Asian American and Pacific Island Heritage Month. He chose A Dong Supermarket in Elmwood as the site for a press conference about his proposed budget.
Maruichi Japanese Food & Deli is located at 37 Raymond Road in West Hartford’s Blue Back Square. The store is open daily from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m.
Like what you see here? Click here to subscribe to We-Ha’s newsletter so you’ll always be in the know about what’s happening in West Hartford! Click the blue button below to become a supporter of We-Ha.com and our efforts to continue producing quality journalism.