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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Tuesday, May 28, 2024

H Mart to open in Davis Square

Store employees and filings indicate signs of development in the previous bfresh location.

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240 Elm St., the former home of bfresh and the future location of H Mart, is pictured on a sunny afternoon.

A new branch of the beloved Asian supermarket, H Mart, is expected to open in Davis Square, according to employees of company locations in both Burlington and Cambridge. One worker told the Daily over the phone that although the opening has been continuously delayed, she believes its doors will open this summer.

The store will open at 240 Elm St., according to an LLC filing made by H Mart CEO Il Yeon Kwon to the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in June of last year. This property was previously home to the bfresh grocery store before it closed in October 2023 due to an inability to meet financial expectations. The space has remained vacant since. 

H Mart did not respond to the Daily's request for comment, nor did the presumed building owner for 240 Elm St.

Famous for selling authentic Korean goods, H Mart’s opening in Davis Square is an exciting prospect for many in the Tufts community. Jules Lee, secretary of the Korean Student Association, talked about her excitement about the potential opening.

“I grew up in New Jersey, and there’s a really big Korean community … so H Mart was the go-to grocery store that my parents and I always went to growing up as a kid,” she said. “It’s really cool having H Mart so close to us … because it reminds me of my family and the food that we eat.”

She explained the greater impact that the opening would have on the Tufts and Somerville community.

“I feel like we don’t really have much of a Korean presence in Boston … so it’s good to finally have that grocery close to me,” she said.

Lee talked about the growing public awareness of Korean cultures and traditions and how the new H Mart will allow for more interactions with that culture.

“A lot of people are [becoming] more aware of … Korean culture through K-pop and K-dramas, and even Korean food, so I think a lot of people already know what H Mart is,” she said. “H Mart doesn’t only serve Korean food, [the stores] have Japanese and Chinese groceries that are familiar to a lot of the Asian community. … It will be a cool way to explore our culture and have that cool interaction.”

While the potential opening is exciting to prospective customers, the cost of food at H Mart may serve as a barrier to access.

“I think [the H Mart in Cambridge] is pretty expensive, so I don’t know if the prices will be the same in the one that’s [opening] in Davis. … Because of the prices and also how far [the H Mart in Cambridge] is, I think it is pretty inaccessible to Tufts’ students.”

Similarly, community members on social media platforms have raised concerns about the H Mart in Davis’ prices and thus lack of accessibility. The store’s prices have been described as more expensive than other markets in the area.

In addition to price concerns, there is discussion of the potential impact on other Asian markets in the area. After H Mart’s Cambridge location opened in 2014, two other small Korean grocers in the area went out of business shortly after. The first was Lotte Market and the next was Mirim Oriental Groceries, which went out of business in 2015.

But an employee from Reliable Market, another Asian supermarket in Union Square, said she is not worried about the future competition. Although she declined to share her name, she spoke with the Daily over the phone about H Mart’s new opening.

“We don’t like it, but we don’t have any choice,” she said. “[But] we’ve been here 40-plus years, so we have our clientele … a different customer base. Not students, mostly residents.”

There are currently no grocery stores in Davis Square, and the nearest stores in neighboring areas are more than a 20-minute walk away. Lee believes having greater accessibility to groceries — “and also Korean food” — will be beneficial for students.

“We wish them all the luck,” the Reliable Market employee said.