When Meng Truong and his wife Paulina emigrated to Arizona from Cambodia, they immediately noticed something missing: there were no prominent ethnic markets carring food or items making them feel like they were home.
When Paulina would have cravings for some native dishes or groceries, Meng Truong would drive to California to find them for her. After a while, Meng Truong noticed they were not the only immigrants feeling something important to their culture was missing from their new surroundings.
On Jan. 1, 1991, they opened Lee Lee International Supermarket.
It first started out as a small operation as Meng Truong would drive to and from California to get groceries for a growing Asian community. But as he took customer requests and his community grew more diverse, his operation grew into a three-store chain with over 175 employees.
Now, Lee Lee International Supermarket is the largest ethnic grocery chain in Arizona with a combined 200,000 square footage between the three locations and carry products from over 30 countries or regions, according to their website.
The supermarket prides itself on carrying a diverse selection of grocery items: even the hard to find elsewhere items, such as: duck, goat, octopus, kimchee and lychee.
“I come here whenever I need something that I can’t get at Fry’s,” said Josh Hannasch, a Peoria customer. “They have a lot of stuff that’s not at other places.”
They also carry an impressive selection of alcohol for their customers.
The supermarket has an international beer selection with beers from Germany, Russia, Poland, Indonesia, Thailand, China, Vietnam, Laos, Singapore and the Philippines
Their grocery and alcohol selections aren’t the only things bringing pride to this international supermarket. There is a gift and home department as well, offering items such as woks, rice cookers, bamboo steamers, Asian tableware, teapots and sake sets.
They also carry a large variety of Asian herbal medicines, incense and incense burners, bamboo trees and even happy Buddha statues.
Lee Lee International Supermarket sets out to be more than just an international market, but a community as well.
For the past few years, the supermarket has encouraged the surrounding communities to join them to celebrate the Chinese New Year at their locations and even put on a traditional lion dance performance.
Johnny Ngov, a manager at the Peoria location, said that they plan to host this event again at the end of January in 2020.
In addition to its extensive grocery selection and community events, the supermarket also has a section of their website dedicated to international recipes so customers can put their new groceries to use.
This section has recipes from all around the world, including African, Asian, Indian, Latin American, European, Middle Eastern, and Australian types of food.
Lee Lee International Supermarket is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The three stores are located at 7575 W. Cactus Road, Peoria; 2025 N. Dobson Road; Chandler; and 1990 W. Orange Grove Road, Tucson.