Abner and Loida Agpalza started their business in Flin Flon out of a desire to give back. With a new building and service in mind, the pair have opened the doors on the new and expanded Flin Flon Asian Market.
Before starting their new location, the Agpalzas ran a similar store out of a home on south Main Street. Longtime Flin Flon residents who came to the north from the Philippines, both Abner and Loida started the original store wanting to offer something in return for a town that gave them so much.
“We’ve been in the community for over 20 years and we just love Flin Flon - we didn’t move away. The scenery and the community, the people are nice here. I just wanted to contribute, to try and help,” said Loida.
“We thought we would like to bring in a variety of food into the northern communities - that way we can contribute to the growth of the town.”
When their now-current location - the building formerly occupied by Nordmark Realty, located on north Main Street - became available, the Agpalzas jumped at the chance to operate out of a larger space. Abner, who worked as a manager with a manufacturing and distribution company in the Philippines, would work out sales, while Loida has come up with new and interesting ways to expand the business - the only one of its kind operating for at least a 300-kilometre radius.
“People were happy that they had something different in town. That's why we looked for a bigger space - and we found this,” said Abner.
“We’d been looking for a space for a while but there were no spots,” Loida said.
“It was actually the perfect building.”
After weeks of renovations, the store opened officially in early March to rave reviews, both from people who wanted to sample something new and for people looking for long-lost familiar favourites not accessible elsewhere in Flin Flon.
“We were surprised because there were so many people who came during our opening day. It was just busy the whole day and people were happy - they don’t need to go to P.A. or the city to get Asian food or even to go get spices,” Abner said.
“People would have to order it online - now they can go ‘oh, I don’t have to order it online, I can just go to the Asian market.'”
The Agpalzas have since hired staff, expanded their offerings and have grown mostly through word-of-mouth, with the word having spread to other communities. Both say they have regulars coming to the store from as far as Sandy Bay or The Pas to pick up items, even taking special requests and orders.
“The Pas - people from there asked us to open a store there!” Abner quipped.
“We try to ask people what they are looking for at the time - that way, we know what people want us to bring in,” Loida said.
“Most of the time, our vendors have those items and we get them in for them.”
Operating the store has been made even more challenging by the fact that both Agpalzas work full-time jobs away from the store. Abner often works in Snow Lake and Loida works in Flin Flon, but both look after the store when possible, tending to the till and going over the books once their 9-to-5 day is up. Despite the time crunch, both Agpalzas say the community has been supportive of the venture.
“Some of the customers, they even thank us - ‘thank you for adding something new to Main Street, for contributing something new and modern, it’s like we’re in the city,’” Abner said.
“We’re going to do some things with the outside through the summer, just to do something attractive, to bring tourists here.”
“I’ve noticed that when you go to towns, most tourists would like to go the main street and they want to go into the businesses. That can attract tourism and it helps the town thrive,” Loida added.
“I think that we have lots of small businesses just like this and people really patronize it, they support it.”