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Hmong grocery store owner buys St. Paul warehouse for wholesale tropical-produce market

Jun 8, 2022, 2:22pm CDT

Mo's Tropical

Mo Chang is opening Mo's Tropical Wholesale, an extension of her existing Mo's Tropical Market, in St. Paul. A former St. Paul warehouse is getting new life as a wholesale market specializing in exotic produce. Hmong grocery store owner Mo Chang bought the nearly 30,000- square-foot building at 141 W. LaFayette Frontage Road, used for storage by previous owner Dragon Star Supermarket, at the end of May. She declined to disclose the sale price. The property last sold for $950,000 in 2015, according to public records, which haven't yet been updated with the most recent sale. Chang currently operates Mo's Tropical Market at 2128 11th Ave. in North St. Paul. She opened it in 2019, with the goal of carrying on the legacy of her parents, who started selling fruit at the family's Minneapolis Farmers Market stall in the early '80s. Mo's Tropical Wholesale within her new property will be an extension of that. "Our family has been selling fruit for close to 40 years," Chang said. Her brother runs BF Yang Foods in St. Paul. She said they want to take "the great work that my mom and dad [did] and expand it to a bigger audience and impact a bigger community at large" by providing it with fresh and affordable produce year-round. Mo's Tropical Wholesale will sell fruits and vegetables primarily from Southeast Asia, like dragon fruit, rambutan and lychee, as well as dry goods, including rice, noodles and spices. It will also feature a commercial kitchen for a deli, offering hot food, baked goods, smoothies and ice cream, plus a patio. Marshall Nguyen and Ozzy Dris of Edina-based brokerage Caspian Group represented both the seller and buyer in the deal. Nguyen has helped other Asian grocers find retail locations in the Twin Cities. That includes Asian Mart 88 at Asia Mall in Eden Prairie, which is expected to open this summer, and Enson Market in the former Gordmans space at Burnsville Center. Nguyen said he expects Mo's Tropical Wholesale to be a "pretty big deal within the Hmong community." Chang hopes to open Mo's Tropical Wholesale in November.

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