Merciful International Market opens in Baxter
Merciful International Market opened April 23, in Baxter. The market offers a variety of Asian and African snacks and food products. Since opening, the store received with positive feedback and is eager to continue growing with the community.
For many years, Dennis and Rose Musazazi made monthly trips from the lakes area to the Twin Cities to get products to make entrees that are traditional to their cultures.
“We both crave for food that comes from our countries,” said Rose Musazazi. “We would always take a trip to the Cities and you know, like once or twice a month. We would buy stuff that we want and we take it home and I'm like, ‘Why can't we have one in Brainerd? It will be easier access for the people that live around here. Save them a trip.’ So, we've decided to open a small one for now.”
Merciful International Market opened April 23 in the Westport Shopping Mall in Baxter. While the market is new to the area, the Musazazis are not. Dennis, who was originally from Uganda, has lived in the Brainerd area since 2005. Rose was born and raised in the Philippines, but moved to the area about 11 years ago.
Together, they enjoy making traditional Philippine and Ugandan dishes. However, it used to be challenging to acquire the items they needed for these dishes outside of the Twin Cities.
The two began renovating their space in February of 2022 with the help of a friend. Together they removed all of the carpet in the space and painted the walls. From there, they began to brainstorm items they wanted to sell and find companies to source them from. They also worked on giving the store a name that was simple and personal to them.
“Our last name is Musazazi and in Swahili it means merciful,” Rose Musazazi said. “We didn’t want to name it Musazazi, but we wanted it to be Merciful instead.”
In addition to the personal touch within the name of the store, the Musazazis have decorated the interior with multiple tributes to their heritage. One of the more notable decorations are the three clocks hanging above the register. One of them is set to Minnesota’s time zone and the other two are set to Uganda and the Philippines.
However, the Musazazis want everyone to connect with the store, which is why they have a world map right inside the front door. Customers can put a pin in the map to display where they are from. So far the map has pins from a few unexpected places like Paraguay and Papua New Guinea.
The store is stocked primarily with Asian cuisine products from the Philippines, China, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand and more. However, there is also a small section of African items available. The store is always looking for suggestions for future products as well and has a clipboard for customers to suggest certain products.
Along with item requests, Rose Musazazi is getting a lot of requests on social media to make more food and post recipes after posting a TikTok video of her making Buklgogi, a Korean marinated beef dish. Social media has played a big part in attracting the attention of new customers.
First time customer Leon Lyttle was excited to see all of the items available in the store. He heard about the store from a friend and called a few times in order to ask if they had certain items. Lyttle is originally from Jamaica and has struggled to find certain products in the area.
“When something like this comes around, I'm excited to know that I can come here and grab something that I want,” said Lyttle. “(There’s) something flavorful that I can make tastes good. So that's all — that's exciting.”
Lyttle was very enthusiastic about multiple items in the store and eager to try a few new things. He also was not shy when suggesting items that he would like to see in the store.
One of Rose Musazazi’s favorite things about the store is interacting with the customers. She is very interested in getting to know the people who come into the store and hearing about where they come from and the things that they like.
“(I love) meeting people from other countries,” she said. “I get to connect with them and talk with them. It's just been really cool. I've met a lot of really nice people that I didn’t know (who) lived in this area, like from other countries.”
When looking to the future, the Musazazis really want to expand the amount of products available. They are taking all the suggestions and advice seriously in order to make it a place that can grow to see the community’s desires. Another long term goal of theirs is to open a deli within the market, but that will take some time.
The Merciful International Market is eager to get to know and offer its services to the community. They have new products in stock each week and offer updates on item availability on their Facebook page.
The Merciful International Market is found at 14091 Baxter Drive, Suite 112, Baxter, MN 56425, located in the Westport Shopping Center.
SARA GUYMON, Brainerd Dispatch, staff writer, may be reached at 218-855-5851 or firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Sara_Guymon .