6 questions answered about Arizona’s first H Mart and a look inside the Mesa megastore

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The countdown to H Mart’s long-awaited grand opening in Mesa has begun. The popular chain of Korean supermarkets opens its first Arizona store as early as February or March.

At a preview event Wednesday afternoon, representatives from H Mart, including Executive Director Sam Kim, answered questions in the store’s 63,000-square-foot space. The store’s opening has been delayed for years, but Kim said he expected the H Mart in Mesa to officially open in one to two months, with no precise date set yet.

Kim also expressed awareness of how H Mart’s arrival could affect surrounding businesses.

“Will our presence bring traffic and other opportunities for other businesses? I think, we don’t know, but my experience will tell me, yes, definitely,” Kim said.

What’s inside H Mart?

H Mart is located in a strip mall on the southeast corner of Dobson Road and Main Street. As of Wednesday, a red “coming soon” banner was attached to the front of the building and much of the interior was still under construction.

Upon entering the main doors, visitors will have around 10 main aisles to roam, as well as sections dedicated to meat, live seafood and produce. The produce section will offer fruits native to Asia, such as jackfruit, persimmons, longan and durian, according to a slideshow presented at the preview event.

One corner of the store will be dedicated to kimchi and Korean side dishes, dubbed “K-Sides.”

Where can I eat and drink at H Mart?

At one end of the store is a food hall called Market Eatery. There, six independent vendors will offer Korean, Japanese, Chinese and fusion food. Kim confirmed H Mart has plans to eventually open a bar and serve alcohol in the food hall.

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Next to the food hall, the Paris Baguette bakery will serve beverages, breads, pastries, sandwiches, salads and desserts.

What does H Mart offer besides food?

Kim said there would be a community space available. In other stores, this space has been used for small parties and cultural events.

In addition to food, H Mart also sells household items and cosmetics. An independent tenant that sells Korean beauty products might operate out of one corner inside the store, Kim said.

Will H Mart affect Mesa’s other Asian supermarkets?

H Mart sits along a stretch of Dobson Road in Mesa that features other Asian grocery stores such as Mekong Supermarket, AZ International Marketplace, Lee Lee International Supermarkets and Asiana Market.

“I have not seen or received an indication the market is saturated yet, so obviously we felt like we had the room to be here,” Kim said. “And knowing who they are, we feel like we are not really a competitor, but we are really compatible. And I think it will benefit all the operators in that industry.”

Is H Mart part of the Asian District?

H Mart sits in an area Mesa is promoting as the “Asian District.” In the census tracts surrounding Mesa’s Asian District, the Asian American population ranges from 4 to 11%, according to the Mesa Office of Economic Development.

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Winnie Kho Kaplan, a local realtor and member of the Asian District steering committee, described how grocery stores like H Mart act as an anchor for the diverse Asian community, whichincludes cultures from many countries.

“We have lots of international students that patronize this area a lot, and there are a lot of Asians moving into this area too,” Kaplan said. “It shows the diversity of Asians, and also we’re leveraging the area. Having Mekong being popular, having AZ International, Asiana — they’ve already built the Asian platform for the Asian community to come here.”

Will there be more H Marts in Arizona?

The “H” in H Mart stands for “Han Ah Reum,” which roughly translates to “one arm full” in Korean. Since opening its first location in 1982 in Queens, New York City, the chain has expanded to more than a dozen states.

Kim considers the Mesa store a stepping stone to future stores in the state, but the company has not yet decided where the next H Mart in Arizona will go.

Details: H Mart, 1919 W. Main St., Mesa. hmart.com.

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Reach the reporter at Priscilla.Totiya@azcentral.com or 602-444-8092. Follow her on Twitter: @PriscillaTotiya.

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