Asian catering is booming in Astraat Groningen. Pet shop closes: ‘Fewer and fewer stores, fewer and fewer customers’

An Asian wok shop, a Vietnamese wok restaurant and probably a Vietnamese smoothie shop will open their doors in the Astraat in Groningen. This brings the number of Asian catering establishments in Astraat to six.

Hong Dam’s Vietnamese sandwiches have been in great demand for a few years now in Mr Dam in the Astraat, between the city center and Westerhaven. In 2019, Mr Dam moved into the building where the last fish shop in the city center was located.

Mr Dam is turning into a wok shop, says Dam, who continues his sandwich shop as a restaurant a few buildings away – in the former Cornica gift shop. If all goes well, he will start a third business in the empty Tefal store: Dam Mia. Mia stands for cane sugar juice that will form the basis of his freshly prepared smoothies.

Dam is joined in the street by Asian restaurant Watami and Chinese restaurant Diamant. In addition, Wok To Go, an Asian street food chain with numerous branches in the Netherlands, will soon open.

Pet shop closes

Wok To Go will move into the pet shop Bo & Co Dierverwenners, which will close its doors on March 1. Owner Maurits Hidding (49) thinks it’s nice after 24 years. “I saw the catering industry coming. Fewer and fewer shops remain on this street, so the public no longer expects a shop, which means fewer and fewer customers are coming.”

He is sad to close the store his father started. “But now I’m still young enough to do something else. Become a teacher or something in the government.”

According to him, it will be ‘one big terrace’ in front of his door. “I think that’s nice too, this square invites it.”

The buses disappeared from Astraat

Titus Franzen (65) from fishing shop Titus Blom has lived in the Astraat all his life. His grandfather Titus Blom started the fishing supplies store, he is the third generation. He sees with resignation that Astraat is turning into an Asian catering street. “There are too many restaurants in the street for me. And we are right between three Albert Heijn branches,” he says.

Not everything was better in the past, but it was different, he says. “The street had three butchers, a fish shop and three supermarkets.” Even now, his street still has some appealing shops, he thinks. He mentions the music shop Muziekhuis Westerhaven, the liquor store Droppie, the two hairdressers, the cheese shop and the wool shop around the corner.

Franzen calls the biggest change to the Astraat its new design when the buses disappeared in 2017. “This was a traffic artery through which everything thundered along narrow sidewalks. People sometimes had to jump out of the way. The fact that those buses are out is great progress.”

‘Only chains and coffee shops’

Last year, wine shop De Roemer closed its doors due to the extremely increased rent. Owner Jurjen Smeenk then predicted that ‘in three years’ time there would only be chains and coffee shops’ left in the center of Groningen. De Roemer’s place has indeed become a Barista coffee shop, but in his prediction he seems to have to replace coffee shops with Asian places.

Business broker Igor Feenstra from Groningen recognizes that shops in the Astraat are making way for catering. “Shopping starts when you cross the Abrug.” According to him, there are hardly any vacancies in the city center. He mentions the recent opening of men’s fashion store No Label in Brugstraat, which followed the previously opened stores Zuivelhoeve and Summum.