Translated by SoYeon Lee
RELIABLE 30th Anniversary Interview
RELIABLE market located in Somerville celebrated its 30th anniversary. RELIABLE market is a long lasted traditional Korean market following Mirim Market located in Allston, Harvard Avenue.
This year’s 30th anniversary is special to the store. With Dong-Jun Park’s, the owner of RELIABLE,sudden death, the ownership was passed down to Young-Suk Kim in October of 2007. Also, in 2009, whenlarger size Korean market, H-Market came into Boston, RELIABLE was expected to experience some negative changes.
But with anew marketing strategy, RELIABLEwas able to enhance its credit by competing fairly with a larger market and coexist with a larger market. It is playing the role of an alternative to a large chain markets for the Korean costumers.
The owner Young-Suk Kim has been running both RELIABLE and KOREANA at the same time and she has been hospitalized before. It can be seen that she has put an extraordinary efforts into her businesses. BostonKoreahad a phone interview with owner Young-Suk Kim on September 20 and looked back RELIABLE’s last 30 years.
It’s RELIABLE’s 30thanniversary. What made you open up a grocery store?
Just 30 years ago, there were almost no Korean grocery stores. Many Korean students lived in Cambridge and Somerville but it was inconvenient for them to shop for Korean food. Considering that I decided to open up a grocery store without a definite plan.
What is the driving force that helped Reliable to grow?
I think it because we do our business from consumers’ point of view. Instead of doing business solely for the purpose of making profits, we deal with our consumers with honesty and reliability and always think about the consumers first; and tried not to bring excessive profit. I can say I was very honesty doing this business. I think that brought the store this far. (Owner Kim used word ‘honesty’ several more times).
In general, when people do business, those people are just labeled as‘seller’ but since there aren’t that many Koreans in the area, we foremost think about the convenient ways for the Korean students and the Korean community to shop.
In the meantime, you used both names RELIABLE and Korean general grocery store but recently you only use Reliable. Is there a reason?
Before RELIABLE became what is today, it was originally a butcher shop for American customers. It kept its credit up well so we decided to keep the name RELIABLE. The store is legally registered as RELIABLE. No other name can come close to the credit that RELIABLE already built up. Not only in words but we have been doing our business to keep our reputation.
You took over the store after the former owner Dong-Jun Park passed away and still kept the store without running into a problem. What is your secret?
Owner Park built the foundation very well. I have owned a restaurant (Koreana) for awhile so taking the responsibility of the grocery store wasn’t easy. Like I have said before being honest to the costumers is very important.
For example, if a product is about to expire and is unavailable to sell it to the costumers, I throw it out without thinking about it. What I can’t eat, costumers can’t eat either. Because I continue to run my business with that attitude, my costumers and I have some kind of connection.
Your store continues to compete with the larger Korean Market, H-market. How are things after the opening of H-market?
H-market opened a few years after it already signed its contract. So I always knew that the market was going to open soon. I wasn’t scared but thought that things could get little difficult for my store. After H-market opened up for 10 days there were almost no costumer.
But I didn’t get frustrated. I decided to differentiate my store from H-market. I thought selling Korean Agricultural products instead of Chinese products would bring back the existing costumers. Over time, the number of costumers increased.
Now, I really don’t think much about H-market. I have learned from doing business that medium-sized markets have advantages over large markets. While it is difficult to maintain a large market, it is manageable for a medium-sized market. Because we check products and replace them if they have problems as soon as possible, we were able to get the trust of costumers.
looking back last 30 years, what was the hardest?
It hasn’t been long since I took over RELIABLE. It has only been 3 years. I had the hard moments more than a couple times but for those costumers who come to my market even though there is a bigger market I’m trying to pay them back with better products. I have the best employees who help me to work without problems. But who doesn’t
have hard moments running business?
what is RELIALBE’s strength?
The store’s location is very good. It’s close to the city. Costumers are very keen to the price. Pricing and freshness are the strength of the market; and of course the kindness.
Is there know-how from the former owner Dong-Jun Park who led RELIABLE for 27 years?
He looked into the future when he ran his business. He was very passionate about the business and his mind was at least 10 years ahead.
For example, he had good eyes for selecting and buying products. Around the time of opening the store, he already was handling Japanese products. There wasn’t any Korean store that handled Japanese products. RELIABLE was the only store that sold both Korean and Japanese products. We were able to attract not only Korean costumers but Japanese costumers as well. (Currently, most of the Japanese grocery stores are closed. It has to do with the decline of Japanese population but it is believed that RELIABLE had attracted Japanese costumers with lower price than any other Japanese grocery store.