By Jasmine Li
Boston University News Service
The Korean grocery chain H Mart will open its fourth Massachusetts location at 1028 Beacon St., taking over the storefront vacated by Whole Foods almost a year ago.
Residents began noticing H Mart posters on the windows of the empty storefront last week. It is unclear at the moment when the store will open its doors. However, a building permit on the storefront window that was issued Apr. 12 confirms construction is underway.
Brookline Select Board candidate Paul Warren, who has been in communication with H Mart’s legal team, said that H Mart has already signed the lease and obtained building permits. Last May, after the closure of Whole Foods, Warren circulated a petition to bring another grocer to the space.
“Our little business district serves many seniors, individuals that have mobility limitations, and low-income residents, and having a grocery store is critical to be able to service those and others,” said Warren.
Warren later added that a grocery store would also anchor other local businesses in the area.
H Mart, which specializes in East Asian groceries but also sells meat, produce, and many American staples, is steadily expanding in Massachusetts. The chain opened a large store in Quincy last year, after establishing its Burlington and Cambridge locations in 2009 and 2014, respectively.
Lawson & Weitzen attorney Jeffrey Allen advised on land use matters as his law firm represented H Mart.
“They don’t need any zoning relief is my understanding, and they don’t need any special permission,” said Allen. “They have to build it out then go through the Health Department for any food service materials.”
Warren said he collected almost 600 signatures from community members, which he presented to lawyers representing the property owner and H Mart.
“There are many factors that go into a business’ location, but knowing that there was incredible support for a grocery store at that location certainly helped those who are interested in this space to justify it,” said Warren.
Warren says the response from the Brookline community to the H Mart news has been overwhelmingly positive. His announcement on the townwide Facebook group received hundreds of positive reactions.
“I don’t think there’s ever been a post on the townwide Facebook page that has gotten a response like that,” said Warren. “So my sense is, people are incredibly excited to have H Mart come.”
One resident excited about the news is Susan Park, who drives out to H Mart’s Cambridge and Burlington locations. Park says she is glad to finally have an H Mart within walking distance.
“I had to make sure I heard correctly, because as a Korean American, living near an H Mart is like winning the lottery,” Park said. “I just think about it, and I get so happy.”
The three existing H Mart stores in Massachusetts contain not only a grocery section, but bakeries and hot food stalls as well. 1028 Beacon St., however, is much smaller than the other locations.
Park says she hopes the new store will have a Korean vegetable section, oyster kimchi and marinated bulgogi beef. She also hopes to see a cafeteria-style area for shoppers to enjoy hot food.
“I don’t know if people realize just how special H Mart is, because the food is very good quality, it’s fresh,” Park said. “It’s just a really fun store also, to go and get all the things that you need.”
Beacon Street is also frequented by Boston University students. BU senior Victoria Chen says she is excited about having an Asian grocer closer to campus.
“If I want Korean food specifically, I have to go to H Mart in Cambridge, which is really far, or I’d have to take the bus,” Chen said. “Or I go to Super 88 but that’s not Korean, it’s Chinese.”
Chen says she thinks H Mart will be popular with BU students.
“I think it will be a pretty big hit, especially since there’s no grocery store in this area,” Chen said. “There’s a lot of students in this area who, even if they’re not Asian, still appreciate diverse foods.”
Chen says she is most looking forward to buying “big jugs of kimchi, the frozen seafood and the tteokbokki kits.”
The news of H Mart’s arrival comes after the closure of Dunkin’, O’Leary’s, Sichuan Gourmet and Economy True Value on 1004-1016 Beacon St.
Construction has begun on a proposed al fresco dining pavilion of five restaurants, replacing the shuttered businesses. Residents are hoping this plan, coupled with H Mart’s opening, will breathe new life into the area.
“The St. Mary’s business district is a diamond in the rough, it’s a gateway to Brookline,” Warren said. “Seeing St. Mary’s revitalized after COVID, with new businesses that I believe are well targeted for the market and will thrive, is excellent news for the neighborhood.”
“H Mart coming is one of the best things Brookline has done,” Park said.