By Bianca Fortis
A crowd of supporters and neighbors welcomed a new H Mart into the Bayside community Saturday when the store held its grand opening ceremony.
At 47th Avenue and Francis Lewis Boulevard, the supermarket’s opening comes after more than a year of anticipation, following the closure of the Waldbaums grocery store, formerly at the same site. H Mart’s opening had been delayed several times within the last few months.
Founded in Bayside 31 years ago, the Korean supermarket chain now has stores across the United States, in Canada and in London. Owned by the Hanahreum Group, it is now headquartered in Lyndhurst, N.J.
President Brian Kwon said it was an honor to open the new store in Bayside, “back where it all started.”
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) gave his congratulations.
“When you think about it, the local supermarket is the heart of the community,” Avella said. “And their commitment to our neighborhood, not only to the Asian food and the Western food, is an indication of just how important these are to our neighborhood and our people.
U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) said in the past the store has been responsive to the issues and needs of the communities in which it does business.
And for her, the store opening was a little bit personal.
“As a mom of two young Korean boys, it’s an extra place for me to do my supermarket shopping along the way as I travel throughout the district,” she said. “Personally I am so proud to welcome all of you here.”
After a ribbon-cutting, the doors to the store officially opened. Within minutes, it was packed with shoppers browsing the aisles filled with both Asian and non-Asian foods and trying free samples.
Bayside resident Lisa Marie Miller was at the grand opening, shopping basket in hand, with her 7-year-old daughter, Bobbie Marie Pasquale.
“We’ve been waiting for it to open for about a year,” she said. “We live just two blocks away.”
Miller said she likes shopping at the store because it offers a variety of fresh produce as well as fresh fish. Miller said her daughter was excited about the grand opening, too.
“She was rushing me out the door this morning saying, ‘Come on, we’re going to be late!’” Miller said.