Fusion aims to bridge the divide between East, West

It'll be a hot summer in the grocery wars as Asian grocers like Fusion open new stores in record time


Fusion is the hoping to  live up to its name by catering to a diverse community, and introducing mainstream consumers to a host of multicultural foods.

When the three owners of Fusion decided to take over the 30,000-sq.-ft. space formerly occupied by a Sobeys in May, the were determined to open in record time.

GALLERY: Take a tour of Fusion Supermarket

And that they did. From start to the soft launch on May 30, it only took 30 days for Fusion welcome residents of the Scarborough neighbourhood of West Hill.

From varying grocery background that include stints at Loblaw’s T&T Supermarket and Middle Eastern grocers Al Premium, and Metro’s Adonis chain, James Ng, together with Kevin Zhang and Eleven Shue shared a vision of creating a store to serve the predominantly Jamaican, South Asian and Asian consumers in this area of the city.

READ: Al Premium aims to be multicultural ‘tourist hub’

The strip mall where Fusion is located also has some independent Caribbean grocers and restuarnats, and Ng was determined not to compete with them on halal meat products. Instead, he said he’s working with them by providing them with low-priced produce in order to build community relations and coexist successfully.

The store has seen a dramatic change in layout from its previous Sobeys’ layout. There’s fresh live fish and expanded frozen and fresh seafood; more diverse HMR products made on site such as sushi, bubble tea and Asian breads and baked goods.

There’s also a full bakery and commercial kitchen opening soon. Ng said Sobeys only had hot foods such as pizza or rotisserie chicken, so he’s had to apply for various city permits to be able to offer a more robust hot food offering.

What is key to Fusion is the variety of ethnic produce available. From seven different types of mangoes including Haiti sweet mangoes and Kesar Indian mangos to chayote melons and columbia papaya, the vast array of ethnic produce has been a hit with shoppers from the start, said Ng. “There’s no other grocer in the area that can offer the variety of produce these consumers are asking for,” he said.

Around the corner there’s a Walmart Supercentre, but for consumers wanting to get a wider variety of multicultural products, they’d have to venture to nearby Markham.

Ng said the Asian grocery boom has no signs of slowing down, with some five retailers set to open within the summer alone.

Seasons Food Mart recently opened its second location in North York; Asian grocer Blue Sky is set to open in August in Pickering, Ont. at the old site of a Staples; and Oceans opened another location in the west end.

READ: Seasons Food Mart has its sights set on attracting diverse clientele

For Ng, the key to the succes of Fusion is on the relationships he’s established with ethnic suppliers in understanding what his Jamaican, West Indian and Caribbean customers want. “I’ve developed long-term friendships with two suppliers who specialize in the produce of these consumer groups,” he said. “It’s critical to understand the needs of your multicultural consumers to compete these days.”