Kai Market by Uwajimaya, as the new store format is called, will be a fraction the size of its regular supermarkets, and will be located on Fairview Avenue near Mercer Street.
Venerable local Asian supermarket operator Uwajimaya is planning a smaller-format store in South Lake Union emphasizing fresh seafood, Asian products and grab-and-go meals.
Kai Market by Uwajimaya, as the new store will be called, will take up 5,500 square feet on the ground floor of the 400 Fairview building, according to developer Skanska USA.
That’s compared with 30,000 to 50,000 square feet for traditional Uwajimaya stores.
Kai Market will include a live tank with crabs, lobsters and oysters, and will employ a master fishmonger. It will offer freshly made meal options including bento boxes, sashimi, sushi, poke and noodle bowls.
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The store will also offer selected seasonal produce and products, with an eye toward those that best complement seafood, such as lemons and scallions.
Construction is expected to start this fall, with opening scheduled for early next year.
“We’d been thinking of a small-store concept for a while,” said Uwajimaya President Denise Moriguchi.
One reason is that finding tens of thousands of square feet of retail space in areas such as South Lake Union for a traditional Uwajimaya store would be difficult. For another, rents would be prohibitively expensive, she said.
The small-format concept allows Uwajimaya to “grow and check out new growing areas without having to make as much of an investment,” she said. “There’s a lot more locations you can go into.”
Uwajimaya chose South Lake Union as a growing, densely populated area with “a strong correlation to our customers — people who want quality food and local choices,” Moriguchi said.
The company has no immediate plans for more Kai Market locations but “if it’s successful, we’d love to open more,” she said. “Since it’s a new concept, we’ll need to open it, tweak it. If we’re happy with how it’s doing, we’d love to open another store.”
Miye Moriguchi, development manager at Uwajimaya, said Kai Market will also allow the company to craft its offerings.
“It’s a different concept, a different store, a different brand,” she said. “But we hope to build upon the quality that Uwajimaya as a grocery store has established.”
Uwajimaya has been a Northwest fixture for some 88 years.
Begun by in 1928 by Fujimatsu Moriguchi, who sold fishcakes and other Japanese products from the back of his truck in Tacoma, the company opened its Seattle store, in the Chinatown-International District neighborhood, shortly after World War II. It moved to its current Seattle location in 2000.
For decades, the store drew shoppers from many miles away — people who didn’t have access to Asian products where they lived.
Three more locations opened over the years: In Bellevue in 1986 (moving to its current location in 2011); Beaverton, Ore., in 1998; and Renton in 2009.
The company is still family-owned, with Denise and Miye Moriguchi part of the third generation.
The small-format concept is one that’s become increasingly popular among grocery stores.
Trader Joe’s has excelled at providing specialized products in its small stores, while Portland-based New Seasons plans to open its first Seattle-area store on Mercer Island this fall, and its second in Ballard next year.
Whole Foods, meanwhile, is opening its smaller-format store, 365 by Whole Foods Market, in Bellevue Square on Sept. 14.
In South Lake Union, a traditional, larger Whole Foods Market already dominates in the southern end of the neighborhood.
Kai Market will be located toward the northeast corner of the neighborhood, a block and a half south of Mercer Street.
“Uwajimaya is an iconic Northwest brand, and their newest venture, Kai Market, anchors 400 Fairview’s north end by providing a unique neighborhood market in this booming area of our city,” Lisa Picard, executive vice president of Skanska USA, said in a news release.
Completed in 2015, the 13-story 400 Fairview building is headquarters for Tommy Bahama, Impinj, Car Toys and Wireless Advocates.
Its ground-floor “market hall” includes food-and-drink purveyors Caffe Ladro, Meat & Bread and Juicy Cafe. With the addition of Kai Market, the market hall is now 89 percent leased, with just under 2,000 square feet left, according to Skanska USA.