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Two Portland Restaurant Vets Have Launched an Online Japanese Market

Fulamingo comes from the team behind Giraffe Goods, which closed earlier this year

A display of Calbee chips, drinks, sakes, and candies at Fulamingo
Konbini goods at Fulamingo

Giraffe Goods, the shop specializing in Japanese egg salad sandwiches, closed earlier this year due in part to difficulties with the ongoing pandemic. When it was open, the the tiny cafe was also home to a mini market, a few shelves and a cooler stocked with condiments, drinks, and snacks. Now, co-owner Kana Hinohara Hanson and her husband Erik Hanson have brought back at least that element of Giraffe with Fulamingo, an online Japanese market specializing in sake, imported Japanese snacks and drinks, and pantry items for Japanese home cooking.

Fulamingo is essentially the Japanese word for flamingo, and a play on Hinohara Hanson’s Japanese upbringing in the United States. While the Portland metro area has a number of sizable Asian markets like Uwajimaya and Shun Fat Supermarket, Hinohara Hanson wanted to offer a more specifically curated Japanese market. “It’s mostly based on my upbringing and heritage, the foods and ingredients that I’m familiar with and have a hard time finding in Portland,” she says.

The two are working with local distributors to provide imported sake and other Japanese products, including pantry items and things found at konbini, which Hinohara Hanson describes as the “Japanesification” of the convenience store. Those who have visited convenience stores in Tokyo or other parts of Japan would likely recognize particular brands of potato chips, as well as wasabi peas, instant curry, Pocky, and other essential snacks.

Additionally, the pair wanted to provide delivery during the ongoing pandemic; while they originally looked to open a market where shoppers could peruse shelves, they opted instead for an e-commerce platform. “It seemed risky and we didn’t want to hire employees and put them at high risk,” says Hanson. “Delivery felt natural. We’re trying to help people be safe, we’re trying to be safe.”

At the moment the shop offers delivery Wednesday through Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. with two-hour windows. Shoppers who would rather pick up their products, or who are outside of the delivery zones, can order them for pickup at Cargo, the Eastside Industrial market warehouse space.

Opening an online market as two industry vets, the two are trying to bring the feel of hospitality to the ordering experience. “People don’t have the expectation for getting good customer service through a website, and we want to change that,” says Hinohara Hanson. To them, that looks like a phone line where shoppers can call in to ask about ingredients or sake recommendations. It will also include online sake classes and cooking videos.

In the future, Fulamingo will add a line of prepared goods with two categories: ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat. The former will consist of things like frozen gyoza or stews that can be prepared at home, while ready-to-eat will have items like onigiri and sandwiches. And, yes, the famous fluffy egg salad sandwiches will almost certainly make an appearance. “I feel like we can’t not have the egg sandwiches,” Hinohara Hanson says.

Even further down the line the pair plan to open as a full retail store, likely working with local farms to provide Japanese produce and other items. But for now, the shop is a place for people to stock up on miso, vinegars, and Calbee pizza chips.