Shoppers squeezed their carts past one another in the bustling grocery store, wheeling through rows of herbs, fruits and vegetables, European treats and Persian delicacies.

A gathering place of sorts for loyal customers and Iranian community members, Super Irvine International Market near Heritage Plaza built a following of regulars since its opening nearly three decades ago, its owners say.

The Persian grocery store on Sunday, Oct. 16, left the Irvine storefront where it has operated since 1996.

But, Ana and Mahta Ariarad, whose father helped establish and still operates Super Irvine, said the grocery store won’t be gone from the city for long and until a new location is identified in Irvine, customers can walk in or call and order their regular items from the family’s Mission Viejo market.

“We’re very grateful for everyone who has come all these years,” said Maryam Rajab, Ana and Mahta Ariarad’s cousin. “My uncle started with nothing and he grew up this community and everyone came, and we’re grateful that all these customers are loyal all these years.”

Over the years, Rajab said the market become an “international home” for many, not only Persians, but other customers of Asian descent as well. Many bought the market’s halal meats, fresh breads and specialty produce, she said. European snacks from Germany and England and reasonably priced herbs were always a huge draw.

Super Irvine had been a place where Persian immigrants just arriving in the area felt a sense of community, and was an opportunity for work for some, Rajab said. Many of the market’s older regulars don’t speak English, Ana Ariarad noted, “and this was the only place where they would be able to communicate with other people.”

Rajab said it’s been difficult explaining to customers that the owners and employees who have run Super Irvine for decades didn’t want to close the doors there. The family’s lease on the space wasn’t renewed, and expires at the end of the month, Mahta Ariarad said.

“Our customers have been coming in and crying, every single day,” Ana Ariarad said.

When Rajab posted on social media the news about the Irvine location shutting its doors, many said they were sad to see market leave its flagship location.

“This is absolutely awful news,” read one comment. “I hope that another Middle Eastern market will at least take its place.”

“Super Irvine holds a special place in my heart…as it does for so many,” read another.

For Irvine resident Farangis Malek, who was shopping for groceries one recent afternoon, Super Irvine had been her go-to market since about 2008, when her daughter and brother recommended it.

Now, “we come here for everything,” she said.

Feelings of sadness about its leaving have been compounded by the recent closure of an adjacent Persian restaurant and the international news coming out of Iran in recent weeks, the family said. Protests have erupted around the world and in Southern California over the death of Mahsa Amini, an Iranian woman who had been taken into custody by the country’s morality police.

“It feels like the world is against us,” Mahta Ariarad said.

Mary Far, who has been a manager at the store since it opened in 1996, said she’s watched a generation of customers grow up shopping at the market. She was teary thinking about the location closing after so many years.

The family’s Crown Valley Market in Mission Viejo is at 27771 Center Drive, employees will deliver to Irvine for free if shoppers purchase $50 or more in groceries, the owners said.

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