By GWEN MURANAKA
RAFU ENGLISH EDITOR
“One dollar yasui (cheaper),” exclaimed a senior shopper, inspecting a display of fish at the fresh seafood counter of Woori Market Little Tokyo at the Little Tokyo Galleria on Thursday, the day of the supermarket’s grand opening.
The supermarket celebrated its opening with a nod to Japanese and Korean culture. Taiko Center of Los Angeles opened the ceremony and Korean samulnori dancers led the guests in a festive procession through the market at its closing. In between, local officials and the supermarket’s executives welcomed Woori, which also operates a market in Cerritos, to Little Tokyo. Inside the market, a variety of Japanese and Korean products lined the shelves and bright yellow and orange balloons decorated the interior. Bento lunches, sushi and a bakery were among the to-go items offered.
“We need more markets and more options for people to shop, not only in Little Tokyo but the greater downtown community,” said Councilmember Jan Perry.
“Little Tokyo was the center of Japanese culture for a long time, but now we feel like it has changed to become the center of Asian culture,” said Choon Shik Kim, president of the L.A. Korean Chamber of Commerce. “We expect the market to be successful with all Asian people shopping together.”
Brian Min, the market’s controller, emphasized that Woori is an Asian market, with Little Tokyo’s Japanese Americans as an essential part of its customer base. The market is in the same location where Yaohan Market and subsequently Mitsuwa Market was located until its closure in January 2009.
Woori, which means “we” in Korean, teamed up with 3 AMKT Corp., owners of the shopping plaza, to develop the supermarket.
“Even if the business prospects are not so good right now, we see a lot of potential,” said Min. “We want to revive business in Japan Town. It’s going to take time, but a lot of redevelopment is going on, we feel we came in at the right time.”
Next month, the market will expand their fresh fish department with a large aquarium for live fish. Min said they were trying to meet the demands of Japanese customers who are very concerned about quality. He welcomes comments and suggestions.
“Japanese people like fresh fish, we want to meet that demand,” Min said.
Yvonne Davis of Diamond Bar, browsing the bottles of sauces at the market, said she was planning to shop at Woori.
“They have different varieties of international products that you can’t find in a regular store,” she said.