Welcome Oriental Grocery is situated about a mile north of Newburgh’s Stewart Airport, in a New Hackensack strip mall. The family that currently runs the store inherited it from the previous owner. Welcome Oriental remains a small operation and cozy community staple. They stock goods that are all too rare in the Hudson Valley: In addition to staples of college cooking like spicy ramen, you’ll find snacks (with pickings from Thailand, the Philippines, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and more) and even fresh produce.
Running the grocery store doesn’t only involve shelving, customer service and cleanup; the owners are responsible for sourcing their items, too. The variety would rival similar markets in the city. Naturally, the owners have one distributor in Brooklyn and one in Chinatown. They trek to the city to restock—a trip made not only more dangerous, but also quite troublesome, by the virus. They used to visit two times a week, ensuring that their shelves were stocked to maximum capacity, but due to increased closings among their distributors, they have had to reduce the ritual to once a week. They used to get hot prepared foods from NYC on Saturdays, roast duck and dim sum and the like—no more, ever since the pandemic.
While being a small business makes the daily schedule much busier, it does have its perks for the clientele, making shopping much more personal. The owners will often add to their stock based on customer requests. Or when popular American magazines feature a certain ingredient or product, they try to incorporate that food into their shelves to meet the new demand. Magazine features are to thank for Sriracha’s popularity it seems, and more recently chili crisp.
Some of the market’s “specialty” foods, many of which have similarly rose to fame in the West and across its social media, include brown sugar boba ice cream, bubble tea mixes, Thai ice tea and mochi (in many fun flavors). Welcome Oriental also offers frozen dumplings and buns, rice noodles of several shapes, an impressive array of condiments (from fish sauces to Japanese seven-flavor spice blend) and even meat substitutes like seitan and dried bean curd. The produce selection includes lemongrass, bitter melon, taro, enoki mushrooms, leek, often for much cheaper than at chain groceries in the area. They even provide chopsticks and bamboo steamers.
Despite the unique barriers presented by distance and space—the store is but a few shelves, though they are packed satisfactorily— the owners do humbly insist that business continues to run smoothly, virus and all. People still need to cook after all, maybe more now than ever. And with former NYC residents relocating to the Hudson Valley (former frequenters of perhaps the country’s greatest Asian grocers), the clientele may have even expanded. Welcome Oriental refuses to fret.
You can contact Welcome Oriental at (845) 462-6433.