H Mart: A Continuation of a Trend?
Why should you visit an Asian grocery store?
By: Karyna Cheung
Integrating East Asian culture has recently become a phenomenon for Western younger generations. K-pop stars like Jungkook from hit boy group BTS and girl groups like Blackpink and Twice have hit mainstream Western media by storm. Anime and manga have taken off, with whole sections of bookstores dedicated to the genre and cosplay conventions dominated by characters from popular series. This change feels sudden, but globalization has allowed for rapid passage of ideas and culture, especially in younger people more attuned to the internet.
With specifically young, college-aged individuals interested in East Asian cultures, it only seems natural that an Asian grocery store like H Mart would open its doors a 10-minute walk away from Boston University’s College of Arts and Sciences.
“We opened about the beginning of August this year, [along] with the commencement of the academic year [...] where we reached the top of [our] sales,” Assistant Manager James Gu said.
While sales are not as high now, he has noticed that business peaks during the weekends. He explained that there was a lot of excitement surrounding the opening and that his supervisor told him their location was meant to “target young students.” He even mentioned that residents of Brookline were a “secondary market.”
H Mart is the largest Asian-American supermarket chain in the United States. While the store’s humble origins are rooted in a now-closed Korean corner store in Queens, New York, the company has expanded to over a hundred locations across the US, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
While being on the smaller side physically, the Brookline location is the closest Asian grocery store to BU East and Central Campus. Previously, the closest Asian grocery store was Super 88 Market near West Campus. This H Mart has some standard grocery options, but it also carries an extensive kimchi selection, a section of fresh seafood and daily-made sushi, and a wide variety of uncommon Asian packaged snacks, drinks, and fresh desserts.
“I usually go to H Mart three times a week,” said Xiaoya Shao (COM ‘25). “It’s pretty close to where I live, so I would pass by every day when I go to school.” Shao will buy a variety of food from H Mart, like fresh produce, snacks, and thinly sliced beef for sukiyaki, a Japanese beef dish.
While some, like Shao, stop by H Mart frequently for groceries, it’s also an occasional stop for students who enjoy their novelty snacks and unique dessert and drink options. For students like Veronica Gates (CGS ‘26), H Mart is an avenue to access these items. H Mart seems to be the best option for students, like Gates, looking to try something new or for others, like Shao, using it as a convenient grocery option.
“[The Cambridge H Mart] is always difficult to park [at] and has a lot of people, especially during the weekends, and now we have H Mart in Brookline, which is easier access for BU students,” Gates continued.
So, is H Mart “targeting young students”? That would seem to be the case. BU students, especially those living on East or Central Campus, have a reason to stop by for unique East Asian groceries and snacks. And for the students who have never set foot inside, H Mart is at least worth the visit to sample their special cakes, onigiri, yogurt drinks, and shrimp crackers, which can certainly not be found anywhere else on campus.
After all, college is about expanding personal horizons, isn’t it? Taking a step beyond consuming East Asian media to consuming East Asian snacks could be a great experience if you haven’t already had it.