Translated by Kelly Choi
It has been a year since H-mart opened in Burlington with local Korean-American’s expectations in 2009. H-mart had a mass of Korean customers from the opening and have a mass of international customers nowadays. Mom and pop grocery stores provide better service through competition against H-mart and Korean customers enjoy extensive grocery shopping opportunities.
Mom and pop grocery stores suffered a heavy blow from H-mart opening and sought measures to save themselves; they provided better product and service so they could attract customers heading to H-mart.
“I think mom and pop stores are doing a good job by providing better service and price” said Hak-Ryul Lee, a president of Boston Korean-American Senior Citizens’ Association, expressing his sorry for the stores’ difficulties.
Reliable market in Somerville attracts Korean customers by automatized calculator and big bargain event every weekends. Chung-Gye Foods in Ayer also appeals to its frequenters with better price and more bargains.
Mirim in Boston secured its customer tier through beter service, fresh food, home-made side dishes and Sinsin Foods provided delivery service and various bargain items for customers’ convenience.
H-mart plays as a meeting place besides grocery shopping. “I visit H-mart because there are a lot of Koreans. I see lively Koreans there, and it really energize me.” said Hak-Ryul Lee, a president of Boston Korean-American Senior Citizens’ Association
H-mart changed Korean students’ grocery shopping culture; chipping in the cost and going H-mart by a rent car. Some students commented that H-mart is a good place to buy a lot of items, and cozy place to shop.
Some Koreans pointed out H-mart food court is a way to globalize Korean food. A lot of international customers of H-mart enjoy Korean food at H-mart food court.
“ Whenever I see Americans having Korean food at the food court in H-mart, I sometimes imagine Americans would enjoy Korean food eventually. I am very proud that such big Korean grocery is in this area. ” added Lee, president of Boston Korean-American Senior Citizens’ Association
However, some locals put their finger on the point that H-mart haven’t served as a local community member; they have been passive to return their profit to the local community.
“KSNE has been serving our community with local business owners’ help. I hope H-mart can be a company that shares its profit with Korean local community or any other ethnic communities ” said Byung Hak Ahn, a former president of KSNE. He also informed that H-mart did not contribute to a fund for New KSNE building. “We should consider that such big Korean company hasn’t helped local community’s biggest issue.” Ahn added.
“I wish H-mart return some of their profit to local community. They are the biggest business company in this area.” said EunHan Kim, a former Korean American Citizen’ League. He also mentioned a lot of Koreans share the idea.
Keum-Ryun Kim, president of National Association of Intercultural Family Mission expressed her frustration for H-mart. “I have asked a help several times, but never heard any word back.”
Local Koreans have used H-mart for last year and balanced view. They say large shopping space, various items, and food court are good. However, price competitiveness, freshness of vegetables, lack of bargains are its tender spot. Some Korean customers grasp local Koreans grocery shops’ and American grocery shops’ bargains to take shop wisely.
“Usually local Korean grocery markets are better in price or freshness” said Misuk Lee, a Somerville residence. “I use ChungGye often. That’s the best place for buying rice. Sometime people I know ask me to buy it for them whenever I go there” said Sungmi Lee, a concord residence.
“I used go H-mart two times in a week when H-mart just opened, but I rather go to American grocery markets except for Korean vegetables or trimmed meat theredays.” commented anonymous Korean, complaining the freshness of vegetables H-mart sells.
H-mart now has many international customers. “We used to have mostly Korean customers in the beginning but now the half of our customers are various international customers such as Chines, Japanese, and American.” said a director of H-mart, Mimi.
“ H-mart is as good as American grocery chains. I believe H-mart do promote Korean culture and Korean good.” mentioned Myung Hoon Chang ( Anonymous). He added that H-mart needs to improve its fundamental problems despite H-mart newly introduced reward system and giveaway event to attract local Korean customers. He advised that the first year was for settlement, but it is time to listen to Korean customers, and put emphasis on returning profits to local communities.