A new market catering to eastern Maine’s immigrant communities opened three weeks ago on Harlow Street in Bangor, next door to Northern Kingdom Music.
Tropical Tastes International Market, owned and operated by Angela Okafor, opened in late January, offering up African, Caribbean and Latin American food specialties and African hair and body products and clothing. It’s located at 347 Harlow St., in the space next door to Northern Kingdom Music; the driveway to the market is in between the music store and the Volunteers of American Northern New England building.
Okafor, who is originally from Nigeria and has lived in Bangor for the past ten years, is an immigration lawyer by training. In response to the many immigrants and international students at local colleges that she encounters in her profession, she decided to open a business that would cater to them specifically, in the hopes of encouraging more immigrants to stay in eastern Maine.
“We are here to close the gap for different ethnic groups in Bangor. I used to go to Boston to buy food stuff and hair products and things like that,” said Okafor. “I want to have things like this available so that people who are here already don’t have to travel. If they have things like this in the community, they may be more likely to stay. And we need them.”
Among a growing list of items Tropical Tastes offers, customers can choose from a wide selection of fish and meat in a freezer, from halal lamb, goat meat and oxtail popular among Jamaican customers, to whole fish that are hard to find in Maine, like butterfish, mackeral, kingfish, snapper and croaker. Staple pantry items in African and Caribbean kitchens like cassava and millet flours, pounded yam, palm oil, African peanut paste, dried squid, smoked shrimp, an array of herbs and spices and dried beans are also available. Hair and body products like pure shea butter and hair extensions, and a selection of African clothing and accessories round out the current stock.
More items are coming daily; Okafor wants to eventually offer goods for many more immigrant communities in Maine, such as Indian, Filipino, Middle Eastern and Central American communities. Okafor encourages individuals looking for a specific item to contact her via Facebook to see if she can order it for the store.
Tropical Tastes is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m, Saturdays and Sundays.