From poke to Pocky, lobsters to growlers, the new store format by Asian grocery chain Uwajimaya is an effort to reach the neighborhood’s booming numbers of both cubicle dwellers and residents.
From sashimi to a poke bar, packaged cold noodle salads to bento boxes, it’s obvious what the focus is at Kai Market, the small-format store Uwajimaya is opening in South Lake Union.
The store, which opened quietly last week at 400 Fairview Ave. N. and has its grand opening May 3, targets the workers and growing number of residents in the neighborhood with a mix of fresh seafood and prepared foods, all with an Asian emphasis.
There’s an assortment of grab-and-go meals for the lunchtime and dinner crowd. For the apartment dwellers in the area, there’s a live seafood tank featuring crabs and oysters, with lobsters to come, along with fresh fish fillets on ice.
“We’re hoping as the neighborhood grows, that people will eat a lot of seafood,” said Warren Huch, store director.
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Encouraging that effort will be classes on cooking and related topics such as sake that Kai Market plans to hold in an adjoining meeting room in the building.
Kai also stocks an array of Asian staples and condiments (noodles, rice, soy sauce, rice vinegar), Asian snacks (Pocky-coated biscuit sticks, mochi, wasabi peas), and beverages including juices, kombucha and sake.
The store will also have a section where customers can fill their own growlers with a choice among two sakes, three beers and a kombucha. A selection of filled growlers will also be for sale.
Prices are typically a bit more expensive than in Uwajimaya’s Chinatown International District store to account for the higher rents, Huch said.
Leaders of Uwajimaya, a family-owned and operated Asian supermarket chain that’s become an institution in the Seattle area, believe the smaller-format store means the company can expand to more areas without having as much of a cost commitment.
At 5,500 square feet, Kai Market is about double the size of most convenience stores but much smaller than the 30,000 to 50,000 square feet of traditional Uwajimaya stores.
The space features soaring ceilings and an interior filled with bamboo plywood. Kai Market’s fish-scale logo design is echoed on one white stuccoed wall and on several of its windows.
“We wanted to elevate it beyond a supermarket,” said Miye Moriguchi, development manager at Uwajimaya.