By Eric Lesser, ’18
A walk down Bergen Avenue in Jersey City is the cheapest and quickest way to travel the world. The busy street is a culturally diverse street of markets, shops, and restaurants that can trace their origins across the globe.
This avenue proved to be the perfect place for Arseny Popov to start his own business, Honey Bakery.
Popov came to the U.S. five years ago with his wife Oxana Popov from Siberian Russia. They first settled into Manhattan, but then made the move to Jersey City.
“Jersey City is different. I love it,” said Popov. Jokingly adding that he felt welcome because he still “spoke better than ⅓ of the population,” which is 40 percent foreign-born.
Jersey City also accommodates Popov in the fact that the city itself supports 13,600 minority-owned businesses. Immigrants are vital to Jersey City’s economy. According to 2013 U.S. Census Bureau data, immigrants comprised 27.4 percent of the state’s workforce. If they were to be removed, Jersey City would lose 24.2 billion dollars in economic activity and 103,898 jobs, according to the Perryman Group.
Interestingly, Popov’s wife is a “Soviet Korean”. These were Korean people that were displaced from the Russian Northeast under Stalin’s rule in Russia; the cultures eventually diffused and from it came a new hybrid of foods, traditions and customs.
This fusion of cuisine is evident taking a glance at their menu, which features food like Russian dumplings and pastries, but also features foods like kimchi.
Popov’s parents started by making cookies for different Russian markets, then they had the idea to set up a storefront.
The shop itself is very small, but it has a lot of character. Paper cranes hang from the ceilings, Russian and Korean cookies and treats are delicately arranged in a display case and many times you can see Oxana playing with his two children.
According to Popov, the foods that you see on the menu are the same dishes they made at home. This was easier for them as he is not a professional chef.