Posted on December 17th, 2015
We just learned that WellFoods Plus, a Union Square market that carries products from countries like India and Bangladesh, including spices galore, halal meat and a staggering array of frozen fish, is likely closing. Sad!
The Scoop: A market likely closing
After noticing that the shelves looked sparse on a recent visit a few weeks ago we thought we’d ask what was up. The friendly storekeeper said that there was a problem with their food stamp permitting and they temporarily couldn’t honor food stamps. Because an estimated 60% of customers use food stamps, that means a major drop off in business. Case in point: whereas they used to sell about eight whole goats per week, they’re down to three.
But there’s more to this than food stamps. A few days ago we saw this listing on craigslist indicating the 380 Somerville Ave. space is for rent. So we called the commercial real estate company to inquire about the lease. We were told the property owners are about to close a 3-year deal with new renters who will also do retail, although not food, in this space. Expect to see this change of tenants some time in the spring of 2016. We were also told that, down the line, the owners might chose to create a 36-unit residential unit on the site.
[Update 12/17: The shopkeeper at WellFood Plus says they may close to restock and then reopen. However, another source told us that “The Guy With a Truck” store from Summer St. in Somerville will be moving to the space. Stay tuned…]
How we will miss WellFoods Plus! It’s been a stop on our International Market Tours since 2006 and is a key part of the multicultural landscape of Union Square, providing food products for the area’s diverse population. The question is now: where will WellFoods Plus go? We’ll inquire as to whether they’re interested in moving to another part of town. But wouldn’t it be great if Union Square had a good sized kitchen incubator with an attached retail space—heck, let’s call it an international community food emporium—with space for international markets? If we continue to lose small ethnic markets, we just might lose the delicious flavor of Union Square. Keep in mind other recent closures in the square: Brazilian Bulli Boi meat market (formerly Casa de Carnes Solucao) and Kitchen Inc., the square’s culinary incubator.
380 Somerville Avenue | 617.666.7700
Hours: Mon-Fri 10am-9pm; Sat & Sun 9am-9pm
Owners: Rokeya and Jahangir Kabir
From: Chittagong, Bangladesh
Open since: 2006
Most customers hail from: Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, India and from the Middle East
What you’ll find: Halal meat (which undergoes special butchering process according to Islamic law), fish, tahini, couscous, spices, rice, teas and sweets. This is where many Bengalis, Pakistanis, Haitians and Nepalese buy goat meat. In the back of the store, freezers are stocked with 60 different fish, shipped from Bangladesh and Thailand. Ask them to pull out the four-foot long, 30-pound fish called lakka, which requires many hours to cook. Bangladesh is predominantly Muslim, so the food at Halal Market varies quite a bit from Indian markets. For instance, Muslims eat beef, whereas Hindus do not. Hence, you’ll find beef here, along with import-brand Middle Eastern items, including rose water and tahini.