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Inventory @ Allston Super88 + Bahn Mi Tip

Well the Allston Super88 is now suffering heavily for inventory and they closed the kitchen that used to cook up some steam buns etc.

I know others have commented, but really wonder what the heck is going on cause the shelves have gotten particularly barren in the last few weeks.

Also, at Pho Viet I finally figured out how to get them to bring the heat. I asked for a side of jalapenos in a little plastic container. With that addition, the Pho Viet sandwich is ever bit as good as Mei Sum with the bird chillies.

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  1. There's a whole thread on Yelp talking about it possibly closing:

    6 Replies
    1. re: jgg13

      My favorite thing about yelp is a whole lot of this:

      "Are tehy all goign out of business. Hrm."

      Not very definitive one way or the other. I will be sorely bummed if the food court closes. :-(

      1. re: yumyum

        Keeping fingers crossed. I read that Yelp thread, what a mess.

      2. re: jgg13

        The Yelp thread is all over the place. They keep talking about the Malden branch, which closed forever ago.

        I thought, the 88 in Allston has had great business lately. Are they seriously considering closing the entire thing?

        1. re: sox_foodie

          I agree that place does good business. I do remember reading something about them owing payroll taxes and stiffing employees on overtime. Would not be the first company to suck every penny out of the place and then just fold it. I so, so, so hope not.

          1. re: sox_foodie

            The small Malden store on Eastern Ave closed when they opened the bigger store on Commercial St. near Piantedosi Bakery. That one always has a lot of cars in the parking lot but I haven't been in the store lately to see if the inventory is dwindling there as well.

            1. re: PrincessBakesALot

              I was at the Malden store on Sunday. The inventory looked fine. It's not as large as the Comm Ave store, but the shelves seemed full, the enoki mushrooms were fresh, and we had stir fried yu choy and pork tonight.

        2. The Dorchester store had a barren look to it also. Lots of empty shelves.
          I was there today and they were short quite a few employees and customers also.

          1. The Dorchester and Allston stores are their bigger stores, so that could be the reason it seems emptier in there. I still haven't seen any signs of things amiss in the Quincy location, but that store is much smaller. I haven't heard any rumors of their having financial difficulties. Though with the fines over the summer, paring down may be expected (especially reading that Grand Chau Chow is closing it's doors). But if Chau Chow City continues to pack them in at both locations (Chinatown and Dorchester), things can't be that bad financially.

            6 Replies
            1. re: kobuta

              I was a naysayer about the rumors until recently.

              If you saw the recent before and after with the Allston store you would be worried.

              1. re: StriperGuy

                Even when you recently posted that business was humming there, they had fronted the product on all the shelves, and cleaned it. But they were still emptying....

                1. re: galleygirl

                  Yeah-- in spite of rosy reports, I haven't found it worth the trip for a while now, unfortunately :( I'd been hoping it was a phase, but I guess we better start hunting for a new source of banana ketchup!

              2. re: kobuta

                No. The Dorchester store seems empty because it's empty, not because it's big.

                They have a serious inventory shortage and a surfeit of barren shelves.

                Same with the store by the Herald. The Quincy store is somewhat better but still looks like it's headed down.

                1. re: C. Hamster

                  I have generally done well at Malden compared to Allston, with it sometimes being bare. However, yesterday I was surprised that there were no Chinese Spaghetti Factory dumplings -- not one packet, few other brands and various other things in fault. Even frozen fish section was very slim and very few boxes of shrimp (the old Malden Super88 used to have more and that was limited on space). Produce was the high point overall and I got the nicest turkey necks I have seen (trimmed, not frozen, skin removed) in the area so it wasn't a wasted trip but was a disappointment.

                  1. re: itaunas

                    I struck out at Malden yesterday on basics like peanut oil, black vinegar, Pearl River soy sauce. Meats & produce seemed fine. By the way, the Stop & Shop up the street has a pretty large line of Peruvian products.

              3. Recently, I went to Super 88 3 x in the last four weeks. I've hit it at different times of day and different days (Sunday, Friday and Wed.) Each week it gets worse. I just came back from a quick visit tonight. The first time, a month ago, there was no peanut oil, sesame oil, or chile oil. The only oil was corn and olive oil. I was shocked and a little put out because I needed peanut oil. Tonight, the only oil left was corn oil.

                Also, the jarred sauce aisle is getting barer and barer as the weeks go on as well as the freezer sections and some refrigerated sections. I don't know what's going on but I really hope they pull it together.

                1. mom chats up the workers at the allston one and she recently heard that a bunch of employees got laid off - she didn't get the impression they were from the allston branch.

                  i always did feel like they opened a bunch of new stores almost at the same time. i do hope our local one won't close...

                  1. much as it would suck for the super 88 itself to close, i'm much more concerned about the food court. is it possible the super 88 to fold and the food court remain open?

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: autopi

                      Depends on how the leases for the building hold up. Also, the restaurants get a lot of their supplies at Super88 so...

                      1. re: StriperGuy

                        I think the lack of inventory is affecting the restaurants as well. I tried to order chow foon at Kantin last night. It was only about 630 pm or so. Kantin was out of chow foon, so I had to go with pan fried noodles instead. The beef and utoy pan fried noodles were mediocre. Not enough sauce to loosen up the noodles. Not that much flavor overall, and the beef was a bit tough.

                      2. re: autopi

                        My thoughts exactly! I may cry if it closes. That food court's been a perpetual source of joy since I moved to this fine city 4.5 years ago.

                      3. We were at the 88 in Malden this past Thursday, the 18th, and while we were able to find most items on our list there was no peanut oil. Very curious. The produce didn't look as fresh as it usually does, though the Asian herbs and greens did look pretty good. I noticed there were some empty and/or sparce shelves here and there and also the store did not look as clean as in the past. I hope this is not the beginning of the end.

                        Does anyone know any other source for Asian products in the Melrose, Malden, Saugus, Wakefield, Stoneham area?

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Gio

                          there are a few se asian markets in revere, lynn, and malden

                          1. re: Gio

                            China Merchandise on 3A, across from the Burlington High School football field, is pretty good for a pan-Asian suburban market. As you go out 3A, the field will be on your left; there is a little shopping plaza on the right. What you will see is something called Metro. Turn into that driveway; C.M. is in the back righthand corner, not visible from the road outbound.

                            1. re: Gio

                              I was also going to suggest China Merchandise for a larger store, but right in Malden the small Vietnamese market on Main has a pretty interesting selection for its size. Its not the Super88 and not certain about finding peanut oil there, but I sometimes go there instead of the 88. Not directly food oriented, but at least one of the dollar stores on Pleasant St in Malden has a lot of inexpensive largely oriental oriented pans and serving dishes, plastic chopsticks, etc. Its a bit further than you want to go, but for peanut oil itself the Chelsea MB carries the boxed containers (3 gallon?) which other MBs usually don't have (although I did see it in Lexington/Burlington a while back). Home Depot also carries larger containers and were pretty aggressively priced, but not certain how good the turnover is there.

                              1. re: itaunas

                                Thanks so much all of you! It's difficult for me to get about and to be able to find the ingredients I need to continue with the COTM is so important.
                                Thank you!!!

                            2. A friend told me she had heard that the Super 88 in Allston is planning on closing but the food court will remain open. I'm not sure about the other Super 88s. But there was also a rumor that the family plans to go back to their homeland to open an amusement park.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: girlygirl

                                Odd rumor to say the least. I know their family is large, but one of them is an old family friend of my mom's (she married into the family years ago) and her entire family is here. Given that she was pretty much raised in Boston, I don't think she would have opted for that plan, if the rumors are true. She mainly works at the Dorchester Chau Chau these days, so perhaps a closure wouldn't affect her personally, but they still have quite a few assets in Boston. Seems weird they would just uproot - that would possibly mean more Chau Chaus to close?

                              2. I was in there today at noon - just as reported,. lots of depleted shelves... the only clue for me was a sign on one of the empty, warm refrigerators reading "Pardon our appearance during renovations".

                                No sign of said renovations going on.

                                Produce, and fish seemed normally stocked - but I noticed plenty of shortages in the oil, vinegars, hot sauce, soy, etc...

                                Another clue - the usual 3 - 400 people stocking shelves were missing.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: okra

                                  In ne.food, one poster mentioned that he talked to a worker there who did say that the Allston store was going to be renovated.

                                  1. re: jgg13

                                    That would be so fabulous if they renovated instead of closing it. They did recently spend some considerable effort in tearing the old beater kitchen out of the place. If they were closing I can't imagine they would have gone to the trouble of actually tearing out the kitchen unless they were selling the gear.

                                2. It's very difficult to figure out the finances of a store that imports such a large percentage of its wares. They may be suffering from high oil / low dollar but then they may (should) also be buying in foreign currency - like the yuan - and that may be making them some money over here and offsetting their import costs. I think they own the Allston store and they seem to own at least some of their other locations; they were picked up when other markets closed and those markets were generally owned by the companies themselves and were sold. (Sometimes the property is leased and the new tenant has taken an assignment of the lease.) If they own their stores, their costs are lower; owning their stores and not paying rent is why department stores like Sears have remained viable.

                                  It may be they recognize they need to remodel given increasing competition. I certainly hope so. The locations are solid but they desperately need updating. I would imagine that investment capital for this chain would be available in the Chinese community.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: lergnom

                                    Thanks for the thoughtful analysis, Lergnom. I certainly hope it sticks around, it is easily one of my favorite features of Boston! Super88 is one of the first things I bring out-of-town visitors to see. :)

                                    1. re: lergnom

                                      I believe most Chinese grocery stores in the area (including Super88) buy through local wholesalers, and not directly from the Chinese manufacturers, so they pay in dollars. I think this is also why you have always had occasional spotty goods (goods come and go off the market within months). Wholesalers likely are raising prices (as most retail outlets are) due to the transport costs for these goods. I know they own the RE in Chinatown (Cheng Kwong market) though I'm not sure whether that's the case elsewhere.

                                      I think given these tough financial times, remodeling to upgrade may be unlikely. I'm wondering if they are actually paring down their store. The Allston one is a little too big in my opinion - maybe they can use that extra space for more food court options. That would be my preference!

                                      1. re: kobuta

                                        All grocers buy through wholesalers, including Stop & Shop. I'm sure that all the smaller stores are more at the mercy of wholesale supply, but any chain of size cuts deals to control costs. For example, a company can use a distributor - who arranges transport, customs, etc. - but the goods are actually purchased by the company itself in foreign currency and the distribution turns into a fee (or cost sharing) arrangement.

                                        What is interesting and somewhat surprising to me is the stores reflect a lack of capital, the one thing which should be available given connections to China. Then again, I know of one chain that was sold a few years back because the family fell apart - and I'm not talking the famous court example.

                                        I assume they track their sales in a modern manner. One oddity of their stores, particularly in Allston, is the small size of some of the departments that should be their money centers - like the meat area. (The meat area in another store is larger but so outdated it's hard to believe.) Much of the store is stuff that can sit for months with no problem but that isn't where you make your money and all that inventory in cans is trapped money.

                                    2. I don't know how reliable this is, but I heard that C-Mart bought the allston location.

                                      9 Replies
                                      1. re: Grammaton

                                        Certainly better than closing it...

                                        1. re: Grammaton

                                          That would certainly be good if true! though there's quite a few of our everyday items that the allston Super88 has stocked that neither of the chinatown C-Marts have... :( Hopefully they would be open to catering to some of the non-Chinese constituencies that super88 was trying to appeal to!

                                          1. re: another_adam

                                            Should I avoid all the imported snacks, ice cream, milk, and cookies there until the melanine scare clears out?

                                            1. re: joebloe

                                              Personally I would avoid all Chinese-manufactured products with milk in it, but not all imports in general.

                                              My mom (much better connected to Ctown than I am) said she too heard that CMart is moving into the Allston location, as well as taking over the old Cheng Kwong space (not sure if they're moving into all the Super88 spaces that look empty). CMart is also building a new store in Quincy behind the new loft/condo building on Hancock St where the new South Cove Community Health Center sits (yay for me, since it's easily walkable to my apt). Super88 in Quincy is supposed to be staying, though I hear the fate of the one in Malden is up in the air.

                                              As to the amusement park theory, my mom heard that the family had already heavily invested in a casino venture in Vietnam, but incurred heavy losses and this is what's leading to their decision to sell some of the Super88 stores. Make of it what you will...

                                              1. re: kobuta

                                                Thanks for the possibilities, kobuta. I've never been to a CMart. Will I still be able to get my fresh rice noodles, Chinese Spaghetti Factory dumplings and peanut oil there?

                                                1. re: bear

                                                  Yes. Those are common items for Chinese shoppers. Overall, I think C-Mart caters more to the local Chinese and Southeast Asian population than Super88, but its largest markets are still fairly well stocked. The only thing I will miss is that I find Super88 more diverse on Korean and Japanese goods. C-Mart does better on Southeast Asian fare, but is quite limited in the others. That may change now that they have more property, but I hope it doesn't mean higher prices as well. A plus is C-Mart is generally cheaper than Super88 was.

                                                  1. re: kobuta

                                                    Yes, I agree with this, and usually like the produce better at c-mart, even. However, I have to say that I've also found the selection of SE asian stuff somewhat hit or miss at C-mart (well, esp. filipino and indonesian things, and thai; vietnamese seems relatively better, but I'm not knowledgeable enough to be able to compare). We've been going to c-mart lately since things got too sparse at the allston super88, and haven't been able to find a number of filipino items we normally get at super88 (spicy bagong, our usual brand of sardines in tomato, frozen bangus, banana ketchup). They do have at least a limited selection of filipino vinegar, fish sauce, etc.

                                                    I should add that it's not like the allston super88 has been all that great for filipino things either (for example, it's been a long time since we've found kropek/krupuk there, and a lot of the frozen items are verrrrrrry old and ridiculously overpriced... and we've never ever been able to find jeprox/danggit in any of these markets) I suspect probably a trek to quincy might turn up a bit more, but it nice to be able to get at least some of these things in Allston.... Maybe with a bigger store, though, they'd stock a slightly wider selection?

                                                    1. re: another_adam

                                                      try sure pinoy market on water street in quincy. they definitely have banana ketchup, bangoong, frozen bangus, and assorted kropek. you can probably find danggit in the freezer chests too

                                                    2. re: kobuta

                                                      Thanks, kobuta and another_adam. That's helpful. Hopefully they will look at what the local market wants and stock accordingly.

                                          2. Shopped at South Bay 88 late Saturday morning and it was dead. Only one cashier was open.

                                            The shelving looked a bit better but that may be because they actually REMOVED a whole bunch of it!

                                            Still lacked basic items, but at least they had my Healthy Boy Soy Sauce again.

                                            The Japanese and Korean (<-- never too good to begin with) aisle seems particularly hard hit.

                                            Anyone know when H-Mart is opening?

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: C. Hamster

                                              No solid info, but I travel that part of the Msx T'pike frequently and there has been absolutely NO sign of any work at the site.

                                              1. re: peregrine

                                                I was just at the Allston location Monday and noticed they had Sesame oil for the first time in a month or more. Sriracha was out of stock as were several other items. bemoaning this to my shopping companion, a fellow taking inventory explained that their suppliers for many items are only making deliveries once a month now, so they have to re-coordinate their buying. And some stuff has just been impossible to get. In addition, they ARE going to renovate, hence the (logically) severe consolidation of the freezer section and elsewhere. I'm sure there are other factors not so quickly shared, but it didn't seem like the place was going to close anytime soon, thankfully.

                                                1. re: Scortch

                                                  I wondered if the diminution of supplies was because of shipping and distribution changes/problems. Since the Malden store has been open for a short time, and I just found it a few months ago, I was hoping it would continue operations. Thanks for your encouraging post!