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“We have all the ingredients here”: Eddie Niravong is bringing new life to one of Sydney’s oldest Thai grocers

2023-03-20 05:30

Asian Imperial Centre – Chang Market has been Cabramatta’s one-stop-shop for local and international produce for nearly 40 years. Five years ago, Edward (Eddie) Niravong and his wife Mint took over the store from his father, with fresh new ideas for growth.

Owned and operated by the Niravong family since 1985, Chang Market is one of the oldest Thai grocers in Sydney. The aisles are filled with sauces, herbs, fruits, vegetables, rice, noodles, meats and sweets you can’t find just anywhere.

Eddie shares with us how he’s bringing the bustling Southwestern Sydney local gem into the 21st century, all while honouring the history of the store.

It runs in the family

Growing up, Eddie came to know every inch of the store like the back of his hand. Like many family-owned and run businesses, Chang Market has always operated off the hard work and dedication of his family members.

“I’ve been in Chang Market most of my life, starting from stacking the shelves, being a cashier to doing pretty much everything in this grocery store,” Eddie says, recalling how he even juggled his university studies while working the aisles.

But Eddie wasn’t always going to take over the family business. After graduating with a degree in accounting, Eddie dabbled in other businesses before deciding home was where the heart is.

As his father stepped back from the business, Eddie took over the management reins. You’ll still find Eddie’s father in the aisles some days, giving a personalised shopping experience that’s key to the longevity of this community hub.

“One thing I learned from Dad was that customer service is very important,” says Eddie. “Helping other customers find their products, buy their products, choose their products.”

Watch Eddie’s story here:


Patience and perseverance pays off

Eddie and Mint’s focus for Chang Market over the last five years has been sustainable growth. The pair have reshaped their business revenue streams and changed up their marketing strategy, offering more online services and even a loyalty program accessible via a QR code instore.

“It is very hard to run a business these days,” Eddie says, “There’s still a lot of work to do, but having said that, it has given us time to find our passions. We’ve managed it in a way where we can have time to do other things as well.”

When a commercial space upstairs became available in 2022, Eddie seized the opportunity to open a Thai restaurant upstairs, Zaap. While the prospect of opening a second business may seem daunting to some, Eddie and Mint saw it as the perfect way to utilise their grocery produce and vast collection of family recipes.

“We have all the ingredients here,” says Eddie. “We just want to share our culture and our food with the rest of the world.”

Balancing their time between the grocer, their newly opened Thai restaurant, and their young family, the couple have a lot on their plate. With the support of their local ANZ banker Kim, they’ve been able to manage finances to plan better for both today and the future.

“Managing the financial aspects have become really easy through time,” says Eddie. “I’ve graduated in accounting, so I have a lot of basic knowledge in finance. But ANZ has also helped me a lot.”

Making the most out of the downloadable templates and tools on the ANZ Financially Ready Business Hub, Eddie has been able to confidently tackle his cash flow and expenses across both businesses.

“I used the business plan and cash flow templates to set my short-term and long-term goals within the business,” explains Eddie. “The business plan template also helped me make my decisions on where I should budget my marketing.”

It’s proved especially useful as the pair cater to more online orders, build their social media presence and implement their online rewards system for customers.

Moving into the 21st century

Family and culture has always been the heart and soul of Chang Market – and it still is.

“Working with my wife keeps me on my toes,” Eddie says. “I’m very thankful that she’s pushed me in the right direction. She’s given me opportunities to do what I love.”

With the grocery, the restaurant upstairs and his young family keeping Eddie on his toes, it’s the support from his wife Mint that has allowed him to explore his passion for acting, featuring in the 2019 TV mini series Les Norton.

According to the Eddie, Mint has spearheaded the store’s transition from bricks and mortar to online.

“My wife has done a lot of online orders, online deliveries, and I think that’s where the future’s headed,” Eddie says. “We’re expanding that aspect of the business.”

Like many stores across Australia, diversifying revenue streams and methods of payment has been integral to Eddie and Mint’s business growth. With the help of updated hardware, Chang Market is heading into more cashless operations as their customers increasingly move away from cash.

“We’ve also taken up a lot of technological changes with terminals, POS, ANZ EFTPOS machines,” says Eddie. “So that’s pretty much a game changer in the 21st century.”

Staying on the front foot of their customers’ changing shopping habits has been Eddie’s greatest triumph, allowing him to build strong relationships within his community and approach the future with confidence.

“We have all the ingredients here”: Eddie Niravong is bringing new life to one of Sydney’s oldest Thai grocers
Mia Erickson

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