World market: Grocery selection spans globe at Saraga
A grocery store, perhaps unlike any other in Columbus, is taking shape in a former Toys "R" Us off Morse Road.
When Saraga International Grocery opens, it will carry food and produce from around the world -- or at least from five different continents.
The Sung brothers are serious when they put the word international in the title of their grocery empire.
The store at 1265 Morse Road, just east of Maize Road, will be the third Saraga International Grocery, and the first in Ohio.
Northland's population density, coupled with easy freeway access, are what attracted John Sung to the former toy store.
He and his brother, Bong, natives of South Korea, opened their first grocery in Bloomington, Ind., in a 5,000-square-foot building. They followed that in 2005 with a second Saraga International, this one in a 62,000-square-foot former Super Kmart in Indianapolis.
The word saraga means "life," "love" or even "let's go shopping."
In looking for a site for a third store, John Sung said last week he scouted a number of locations in central Ohio before finally settling on the Morse Road building, which is about 40,000 square feet, according to the Franklin County auditor's website.
"I like this area because there's a huge population and also very good access from a lot of areas," Sung said.
Columbus is in many ways similar to Indianapolis, he added.
"We like the Midwest," Sung said. "We grew up from this area, so we're very comfortable to come because we know the market and we know how to cater to this community."
Although Sung said he hopes to have the newest Saraga International Grocery open in time for Thanksgiving shopping ("Everybody's asking me that," he said), much remains to be accomplished before the renovations are complete. Shelves and refrigeration units were in place last week and workers were swarming about as they tackled various projects.
"There are a lot of things going on," Sung said.
He noted regulations relating to construction and inspection seem to be a bit harsher in Columbus than they were in Indianapolis.
"I'm not blaming the city," Sung said, "but it's more regulations. It takes more time because of that.
"It's pretty challenging, but we'll do it."
The size of the building was another reason Sung settled on the Morse Road location.
"We have a humongous variety to cover: Africa, Asia, North and South America and Europe," he said.
The growing diversity of Columbus as a whole and the Northland area in particular, with more immigrant and refugee populations settling in central Ohio, also played a part in attracting Saraga International to its newest venue.
"We see the potential because of that population," Sung said.
He added the store should employ around 70 people when it opens.