Expansion is the right move for Ely’s grocery store, says owner

7:00 a.m. March 19, 2022

A merchant about to open his first Asian grocery store thinks growing demand now means “the right time and place” to expand.

Tony Thommes and his partner Adrian launched an Oriental food stand at Ely Market last year, which will open every Sunday thereafter.

“My idea was something I had been thinking about for many years that Ely needed an Asian store,” Tony said.

“So many people love Asian food and had to travel to Cambridge for it.”

Tony has since seen demand increase and decided to open a bigger store, called Ely Oriental Groceries, on Broad Street.

He made progress from the moment he thought about running an Asian food business in Ely, and his decision to exploit a market gap is paying off.

“The demand is there, so we thought we should expand,” Tony said.

“I’ve lived in Ely since 2017 and it was a natural place to start.

“I’ve met so many customers and other traders; I had no idea I would make so many friends.

Ely Oriental Groceries will open its new store on Broad Street (pictured) after a successful stay in the town’s market square.
– Credit: Facebook/Ely Oriental Groceries

Chinese, Malaysian, and Korean produce are some of the cuisines offered at Tony’s shop, along with the addition of frozen dumplings and banana leaves.

Last August, Tony started looking for a new location and received the keys to the shop in November.

In the meantime and today, efforts have been made to ensure that the company is ready and has already recruited a member of staff.

“There are people constantly asking questions (about the store) because the word that we were going to open was spreading quickly,” Tony recalls.

“As a regular market trader, that will be the end of it, but we will still be occasional traders, which means I may ask for a pitch from time to time.”

Tony’s last day in Ely Market Place is this Sunday before the shop opens on March 26.

Its food service was also nominated in three categories at next week’s SME Ely Business Awards, including Best New Business.

He plans to run the company while working as an engineer, but he’s confident he’ll be able to juggle the two commitments.

“We would like to make it more sustainable and have more time for me while still providing service to all of our customers,” Tony added.

“It all happened so fast, but I think it’s the right time and place for the shop.”

Ely Oriental Groceries will be closed on Mondays but open from Tuesday to Sunday.