SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) - Huge crowds turn out for the grand opening of a high-end Asian market in the South Bay. The H-Mart grocery chain opened its first Bay Area location in San Jose.
With a line out the door, shoppers packed this Korean market, eager to be among the first to step inside the new H-Mart in the Bay Area.
“There’s a lot of Korean BBQ places that opened up and they are everywhere but there's not many Korean markets for us to check out,” said Kimm Hoang of San Jose.
“They have everything,” said Steve Hall of Cupertino. “They have all different kind of fruits, all different kinds of meats, fish it's all in one place.”
Based in New Jersey, it's the chain's 57th store and the first one in Northern California. Searching for a site in the Bay Area for 10 years, the company ultimately decided on this location off De Anza Boulevard in San Jose.
“We go to an area where there's an affluent neighborhood, good school district with good traffic but the main thing is Asian demographic, “ said HMart President and COO William Choi. “Asian American demographic is very important.”
Choi said at least 100,000 Asian Americans live within a one-mile radius of the store. He said the market offers the quality of "Whole Foods” with “Walmart” prices. Among their specialties include fresh, live seafood. Flute fish is flown from Korea.
“One thing that we can differentiate to our other Asian competitors is although we have many good live fishes but still no fish smell,” said Choi.
“I’m actually surprised they don't have more locations in this area,” said Kirthi Kalyanam of the Santa Clara University Retail Management Institute.
Kalyanam said the Bay Area’s Asian American population is growing rapidly as well as the market for specialty ethnic foods. It’s a diverse need many mainstream markets aren't able to fill.
“It’s actually Asian food retailed with a western concept,” said Kalyanam.
The store’s business model includes a food court and free samples. Stan Sieler plans to return hoping to try more ethnic foods and broaden his palette.
“The more we broaden it, the more we understand each other,” said Sieler. “It can just help people interact and live better.”
Staffed with 100 employees, the market hired San Jose police officers to make sure it's a safe shopping experience.
The company plans to expand in a bigger location on the other side of San Jose off Oakland Road in the coming months, and then into Oakland and San Francisco in the coming years.