Ratchawong Rd in the Worawot area
Anybody residing in or spending any length of time in Chiang Mai will know of the famous Kasem store, a genuine Chiang Mai city institution. It’s an old-fashioned style, family-run grocery store rather than supermarket as per Bangkok’s glitzy offers or Chiang Mai’s own Rimping supermarket chain, but still specialises in mostly imported products catering to the expat market.
Well at least that’s what we thought until we got chatting to owner Mo. (Mo and his wife are the present owners — the original Khun Kasem having established the first of their two family outlets some 15 years ago.)
TF: “What motivated your grandfather to open a store serving foreigners?”
Mo: “He didn’t! He actually opened the first store after the establishment of Chiang Mai University to meet the demand for foreign products from the influx of Thai professors and lecturers, many of whom had lived and studied abroad and developed tastes for particular delicacies that at the time were impossible to find in Chiang Mai. Nothing to do with farangs! Yes, sure there were overseas professors too, but most of our customers were Thai. Of course when we opened expats soon discovered the store too.”
TF: ” Interesting — but today most of your clientele is expat isn’t it?”
Mo: “No, not all — at least 50% are still Thais who enjoy trying out foreign foods“.
TF: “Kasem is a family-run business. I see your family serving customers — apparently grandmother still does a lot of the baking — do you and your relatives like all these weird and wonderful farang products?”
Mo: “Sure!” He searches the shelves. “Spam — now that’s brilliant!”
TF: “Baked beans…?”
Mo: “Kids love them.”
TF: “Blue cheese, peanut butter … ?”
Mo: “Great! No weirder than some of the stuff we Thais eat!”
Even though they’re both small stores every corner is jam-packed and you can find an amazing range of products, plus they also have a great in-house bakery (run by grandma).
The original Kasem is located on Ratchawong Rd in the Worawot area and the newer location opened in 2003 is on Nimmanhemin Rd with accompanying coffee shop. Both are open Monday to Saturday, 08:00-19:00.
By Mark Ord
Last updated on 20th September, 2013.