New Acton Asian Market
BY AVA WONG '23
“We hope that good food can truly bridge gaps that nothing else can,” said Max Pai, the owner of the new Acton Asian Market. Within a few weeks, the supermarket plans to open at the old Willow Books building near the town’s center. Local startups are always a source of excitement, and the new store hints at burgeoning activity in Acton. But with the cultural representation it brings, the market also represents much larger sentiments of acceptance and unity and hopes of rebuilding our community on a foundation of respect.
Pai’s family has been in the food business for generations. In 1995, his father opened Ginger Court, one of Acton’s oldest Chinese restaurants, on 36 Great Road. At its current location, 344 Great Road, Ginger Court takes pride in having served generations of customers and supporting other local businesses. Max Pai recently joined the family business and explained that his favorite part is “seeing the instant satisfaction and happiness from customers as they enjoy their meal.” He acknowledged that while food lacks the complexity craved in modern technology, it satisfies many people regardless of their identity. So with the goal of serving the community, Ginger Court looks to offer even more to its customers: through a market, Pai hopes to “inspire people to cook different things, try different things—and more importantly, broaden people’s horizons.”
At the market, customers can find freshly smoked and roasted Cantonese duck, roasted and barbecued pork, and traditional Chinese baked goods. Pai also plans to add dim sum dishes to the market’s inventory over time. The Acton Asian Market will be the first of its kind in town, and Pai hopes it will be “a pillar of the overall community, both inside and outside the Asian American community.”
Indeed, new businesses create unique opportunities to come together in support of local businesses—a pivotal tool during a time the town has grown so polarized over political issues. Pai stated that “the market will allow for educating the Acton community as a whole, showing how there are similarities and differences among the cultures, but that the differences are actually wonderful and unique.” The Acton Asian Market allows customers of all backgrounds to cross cultural boundaries with respect and curiosity, an exploration that will hopefully begin mending the community. In addition to supporting the Asian community, Pai hopes that the market will transform people’s attitude towards other cultures in general: the market may push some to try new things from different cultures, bridging the gap between diverse communities. The community needs curiosity to learn about new cultures, as education is crucial in fighting ignorance and the barrier of hate it creates, said Pai.
From a personal standpoint, Pai described opening the market as a “dream come true”: “I was never good at getting high grades or sports or music, but I loved working with food and my hands. I also knew that whether I was working a desk job or a physical job, I would need to work hard to achieve something great.” Pai found his passion in food and sees the market as an ideal place “to create something that [will] last many generations.”
Quoting Anthony Bourdain, Pai concludes “[t]hat without experimentation, a willingness to ask questions and try new things, we shall surely become static, repetitive, moribund.” The next step to healing the community is being able to appreciate each other—differences and similarities alike. The Acton Asian Market is thus an opportunity to step out of comfort zones, try something new, and embrace every culture here as a piece of the beautiful tapestry that is the AB community.