Stony Brook University’s 550-square-foot Jasmine Market is one of the most unusual college campus c-stores in the country. Instead of retailing the usual mix of conventional snacks, beverages and sundries, it specializes in rather arcane Asian grocery items such as shrimp crackers, Kasugai roasted hot green peas, Thai coconut rolls, Japanese green tea-flavored chocolates, Korean Choco Pie, lychee-flavored foods, regional produce like dragon fruit and Asian pears and many other Asian specialty items—of course, including that college staple, ramen.
The reason for this out-of-the-box approach is that Stony Brook has an enrollment that at last count had 36.4% of students identifying as Asian, and Jasmine Market’s exotic stock mix is designed specifically to meet their preferences.
Jasmine Market is the latest addition to Jasmine, an 8,300-square-foot dining center inside Stony Brook’s Charles B. Wang Center that serves fresh, authentic Asian cuisine ranging from the Hibachi Grill action station and made-to-order sushi to poke bowls and a wide assortment of very specialized beverages at the Tea House station.
Tea House itself is a rather unusual outlet in its own right, serving not only fairly familiar selections like flavored and bubble teas but also a trendy new beverage called “cheese tea” that is made with either sweet or salty cream cheese combined with condensed milk to form a tall, frothy head similar to whipped cream. Other Tea House offerings include Vietnamese pressed sandwiches, Asian salads, frozen yogurt, tea-infused scones, muffins, cupcakes and tea cookies.
Jasmine Market was built into an underutilized space in the Jasmine complex that previously had held a condiment and cashier area and was made over with repurposed materials to minimize renovation costs.
“We had a couple of goals [for the space],” says Jeff Moss, facilities manager for Stony Brook’s Faculty Student Association. “One was just to speed the checkout process [in Jasmine] and another was to increase our offers to the students. [As Jasmine] was already retail rather than swipe-based, it made sense to put in a small convenience-style market, and since the location was already Asian [themed] it made sense to [make it] an Asian specialty market.”
As for models, the design team didn’t have to go far as Stony Brook is located on Long Island in the greater New York City area and its huge Asian population.
“We did some market research by visiting these neighborhoods, seeing the retail setups, how they were organized, what they offered, what seemed to resonate and what didn’t,” Moss explains.
Of course, “Asian” as a concept embraces many different cultures and backgrounds, which the Stony Brook Asian student population represents, so there is a challenge in finding the right mix that satisfies multiple preferences. Fortunately, the dining team already had plenty of experience with this juggling act with Jasmine.
“We are serving multiple cuisines side by side [at Jasmine],” Moss says. “Geographically, we try to touch a lot of points in that part of the world and we carry that philosophy through the Market as well.”
Among top-selling items at Jasmine Market according to Moss are fruity gummies, all sort of Asian beverages, dried squid, regular and spicy shrimp chips, Korean sauces and condiments and dishes from the Jasmine concepts packaged for grab and go.
While a new market traditionally has some misses in its initial inventory mix, Moss says the Jasmine Market team was exceptionally astute in its selections as only a handful of originally stocked items needed to be discontinued for lack of interest.
The entire Jasmine complex regularly collects feedback not only through surveys but also its website and social media channels and texting program on what to carry and serve. It has also partnered with the university’s China Center to utilize WeChat, a Chinese messaging, social media and mobile app that allows it to collaborate with other academic and administrative areas.
Jasmine Market itself is an open station within Jasmine rather than a separate, enclosed space. It is surrounded by a large, open dining room, as well as a private dining area, accommodating about 350, and positioned near a glass storefront that connects to an outdoor pond and garden.
The space features wood ceiling grids, glowing lanterns, river rock pads, bamboo flooring and bamboo and grass panels to evoke an inviting, modernized, Asian-inspired dining experience.