WEST LOOP — Asian grocery chain H Mart plans to open its highly anticipated Chicago store by the holidays, according to the store's contractor.
The New Jersey chain specializing in Korean and other Asian foods is targeting Christmas or New Year's Day for its Chicago debut at 711 W. Jackson Blvd., said Shannon Erickson of Osman Construction Corp., the store's contractor.
H Mart — short for "Han Ah Reum," or "One Arm Full of Groceries" in Korean — was founded in 1982 in Queens, New York by Il Yeon-Kwon, who opened the a corner store after immigrating to the United States.
The company has since opened more than 50 stores across the country, including four in the Chicago suburbs. It also has stores in the United Kingdom.
The chain first announced its intentions to open near Halsted and Jackson streets in September of last year. After little activity at the site for months, the store applied for construction permits from the city in April, saying it planned $750,000 in renovations.
The site was fenced off and construction crews have been seen working inside the store in recent weeks.
The West Loop store is expected to feature a food court and live seafood, according to Friedman Properties, which marketed the site.
The supermarket also sells noodles and kimchi and specialties such as dried squid, mooncakes and fish balls, according to its website. The store also sells appliances such as rice cookers.
Signs outside the store promise a 2017 opening.
An H Mart spokesperson did not return messages seeking comment. Last year, a company spokesman said H Mart hoped to serve Asian students attending the University of Illinois at Chicago.
The store is replacing the old National Office & Liquidators, which replaced a Staples.
The Korean market in the United States is growing, with some 1.8 million people of Korean heritage now living here, according to the Pew Research Center.
Chicago has about 61,000, according to Pew — fifth largest in the United States, behind Los Angeles, New York, Washington and Seattle.
Fish Balls are sold at the Super H Mart in suburban Niles. The store will open soon in the West Loop. [Provided/Guido Nardini]