Asian grocery store struggles to put staple foods back on shelves as shoppers buy in bulk

A worker carries a bag of rice at the Lotte Plaza Market store in Ellicott City, Maryland. They are running out of rice as shoppers flock to the store after coronavirus closings.

A bare shelf for onions is seen at Lotte Plaza Market in Ellicott City as shopper flock to stores during the coronavirus outbreak.

An empty bin is seen at Lotte Plaza Market in Ellicott City, Maryland. Crowds lined up to shop at the store after coronavirus closings in the area.

Lotte Plaza Market was busy on Saturday morning as shoppers prepared for the coronavirus outbreak.


As people rush out to get what they need to hunker down for the coronavirus closings, shoppers at an Asian market in Howard County, Maryland, found a lot of empty shelves.

“This is Jasmine, this is white rice, it is almost empty,” said Young Hoon Chung, the grocery manager at Lotte Plaza Market in Ellicott City.

The store, frequented by the Asian community, had long lines and lots of empty shelves on Saturday after schools were closed, events were canceled and many were forced to work from home due to the coronavirus outbreak.

He said that they’re almost out of rice, which is a staple for many of the shoppers. And they haven’t had a lot of luck in getting shelves restocked.

“It’s not easy to get rice because we don’t have enough rice in the warehouse,” Chung said.

The shelves for noodles, onions, chicken and beef were also empty. He said they’re going to try to keep stocked with what they can.

“Many people actually come by and it’s steady — even this morning in Lotte I see a lot, and then also I heard from H Mart right down the street also had a lot of people,” said Young Smith, who lives in Ellicott City and was among the crowds at local Asian grocery stores this morning.

Shoppers were buying up rice, chicken, onions and, “a lot of people are also looking for masks,” Smith said.

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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