Hmart President Stacey Kwon highlights what shoppers can find at the Asian supermarket chain’s first Austin location.
By Saba Ghaffari
What started as a small family-run corner grocery store in the Woodside neighborhood of Queens, N.Y., has evolved into a major supermarket chain with more than 60 locations throughout the nation and more stores planned. Amid the chain’s growth in the last 36 years, one thing has always remained the same for Hmart: It is a place for people to share culture through food.
“Food is essential to cultural identity and understanding,” says Stacey Kwon, president of Hmart. “For some, it is having that taste of their homeland and being able to share their culture through food with others.”
The grocery chain, which specializes in Asian food and products, opened its first Austin location earlier this year. While shoppers can expect the same fresh, high-quality food found in other Hmarts, the Austin location is unique in that it is the first Hmart to have a Market Eatery, a food hall attached to the grocery store.
“Having a food hall attached to a supermarket creates a mini ecosystem,” Kwon explains. “The chefs at Market Eatery have their own farmers market just steps away in Hmart.”
The Market Eatery offers many food-and-drink options for shoppers, such as sizzling hot-stone-pot bibimbap, bubbling tofu soup, Singapore beer and 99-cent beers like Rolling Rock and Lone Star. The Market Eatery also offers live music from local bands such as Beat Root Revival.
The Market Eatery is Kwon’s latest creation for Hmart. Since becoming president in 2010, Kwon has focused her efforts heavily on customer experience and has created several houseware brands for the company in addition to the Market Eatery. In 2013, Kwon graduated from the French Culinary Institute, further diversifying her knowledge of food and cooking.
Her father opened the very first Hmart store, so it goes without saying Kwon’s loyalty to Hmart runs deep. From a young age, Kwon started working at Hmart alongside her father and other family members, starting out as a bagger then working as a cashier and eventually taking on other jobs in the store.
While Hmart has certainly grown since those early days, Kwon says her dad treats every store opening as if it is the one that will make or break Hmart.
“I’ve learned a lot about leadership growing up watching my dad work and how he treats others,”Kwon says. “And I continue to learn from him every day.”