You may have seen an Orange Fanta Soda in the refrigerator at your local market or bodega. But how about the flavor Berry, or Not Berry? Probably not, since it’s mainly available in Egypt. Where you might find it in New York is in the Bronx and Queens at NYC Exotic Snax.
The fun concept is the brainchild of Wail Alsaidi, Rafael Lullanda, known as JR, and Rob Hernandez. JR was bringing back snacks from his world travels and started selling them at the Bronx smoke shop he ran for Alsaidi. Soon the items like chips from Cyrus and crackers from Japan started flying off the shelves. The group decided to open a second delicious location in June at a colorful shop in Ozone Park. It was certainly a leap of faith during a pandemic.
"Everybody said, 'you guys are opening more stores, how about if it doesn't work, if people don't come?'”, said Alsaidi, who said to the naysayers, “scared money don't make no money," so he had to try.
Among the big sellers are Lays chips from Thailand which taste like spicy chicken from KFC, funky flavored Oreos, decadent Snickers Bar Popcorn, and Cap’n Crunch Blue Maple Syrup. Items are tracked down by a network of friends around the world, and each delivery brings a new surprise.
The stores in Bedford Park and Ozone Park caught on with the help of Instagram posts from fans. You are going to pay more for these snacks than a bag of chips and bottle of soda at the local bodega. The NYC Exotic Snax crew says it’s worth it, not to mention you are supporting a local, growing business.
"These are things that you can order online, but why wait the two to three weeks for it to come plus the overcharge on the shipping when you can just walk in and get it from us," said Hernandez.
My one concern for these New Yorkers on the snack game: how does one work at one of the shops and not want to eat everything in there. Alsaidi says, it comes along with the territory.
"We actually do try everything, we have to try everything, we need feedback”, said Alsaidi.
Now that the Queens and Bronx locations of New York City Exotic Snacks are doing well, you might think that the team here would just sit tight and enjoy it. On the contrary, they already have plans to expand more in the future.