Market stories: Get to know those who run Concord’s neighborhood grocery stores

  • Liz Duncan, owner of Quality Cash Market, cashes out a customer. July 20, 2016 (JENNIFER MELI / Monitor Staff) —JENNIFER MELI

  • Liz Duncan, manager of Quality Cash Market on Eastman Street, works behind the counter last week. JENNIFER MELI photos / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 7/24/2016 9:43:44 PM

If you’re a regular at a neighborhood grocery store in Concord, the owner probably knows your name, your go-to lunch, your birthday and your kid’s position on the soccer team.

Do you know their stories?

South Street Market,27 South St.

The first conversation between Jim and Robyn Bashios was a little rocky.

“When my wife and I met, she asked if I was married,” Jim said. “I said yes.”

She was taken aback at first, but then he explained. He was a single man, but he was married to a job. His family had owned South Street Market in Concord since 1948, and Robyn eventually joined both. (In fact, the headline “Married to the job” ran above a Monitor story about the Bashios family years later.)

Friends and relatives know to try the store first when looking for either Jim, 55, or Robyn, 54. They work almost every day of the year, Robyn said, repeating one of her father-in-law’s favorite lines.

“There’s nothing convenient about a convenience store being closed,” she quipped.

Quality Cash Market,11 Eastman St.

The Heath family first opened a meat market at the corner of Rumford and Beacon streets in 1977.

Now-manager Liz Duncan was a young girl then. But she still remembers the original Quality Cash Market, and the way her father, Tony Heath, would collect leftover change all year round. Once a year, he would total up the coins. Usually, they added up to a few hundred dollars.

“He’d give the money to a needy family in the neighborhood,” Duncan, now 41, said.

The store eventually moved to the east side of town. Duncan’s teenage son was a baby at the time, but he can still sport his “I survived the kitchen addition at Quality Cash Market, 2002” T-shirt. When other markets – Korner Kupboard in Concord and Carey’s Dealrite Market in Boscawen – closed, Duncan said their owners approached her family about buying their properties.

Running one store was enough, they decided.

“I can’t do two businesses,” Duncan said with a laugh.

Cimo’s South End Deli,250 South St.

On three separate occasions, John Cimikowski thought about buying the old Ordway’s Market.

“I was always chicken,” he said with a laugh.

But 20 years of running his own wood flooring company had done a number on his knees, and the market on South Street was sitting vacant. So he finally approached the landlord seven years ago, and Cimo’s South End Deli was finally born.

Cimikowski had only cooked for the masses once before. While working at the Boys & Girls Club one year, he lost a cook shortly before kids arrived for camp. He made a visit to the cafeteria at his grammar school in Concord and returned with a copy of Cooking for Fifty.

Now, his deli carries the business. In addition to sandwiches, he prepares fresh soup – like his trademark sweet chili.

“September through April, every day, it’s fresh,” Cimikowski, 53, said.

What makes it so sweet?

You can ask, but he won’t say.

Go Food Basket, 72 Washington St.

When Hye Sook Han and her husband, Kwan Soo Han, opened Go Food Basket on Washington Street, most of their shoppers weren’t familiar with kimchi.

But Hye Sook, whose American name is Helen, decided to transform the old deli in the back of the store into a Korean kitchen. She loves to cook food from her home country for her children, and she wanted to try selling it to others.

The first customers wrinkled their noses at the pronounced smell of the fermented dish. Over 12 years, however, the neighborhood has come around.

“Now, they open the jar to smell it,” Hye Sook said.

Later this year, however, her regulars will have to do without for a few days.

“My daughter is getting married,” Hye Sook said, beaming.

That weekend will be their first away from the store – ever, she said.

Katmandu Bazaar, 133 Loudon Road

Once a week, Karma Gonpo drives to Boston in the middle of the night.

The owner of Katmandu Bazaar makes the trip to pick up fresh fruit and vegetables from Asia and Africa. His market has filled a need for Concord’s immigrant community, allowing them to find their native foods in far-away New Hampshire.

“You have so many languages,” Gonpo, 39, said. “We try to understand everyone. The way the market expands is when a new culture comes in.”

In 2010, the business started as a gas station snack shop. Four years later, he opened the Katmandu Bazaar in the Lamplighter Plaza on the Heights.

The shelves are stocked with spices, produce like mustard greens and mangos, chutney and other hard-to-find foods. At the small restaurant inside, the growing menu includes Nepalese dumplings called momos and a smooth yogurt-based drink called lassi.

“I feel like I’m at home,” Gonpo said.

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