T&T Supermarkets Expanding into the US with 1st Store [Interview]

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T&T Supermarkets, Canada’s leading Asian grocery chain with more than 30 stores, will open its first U.S. store in the Greater Seattle Area in Washington.

The flagship store will be 76,000 square feet and the largest Asian supermarket in the State when it opens in the summer of 2024 in Bellevue, Washington in the Marketplace at Factoria.

“We know the love for T&T transcends borders. It’s not unusual to see U.S. license plates in the parking lots of our British Columbia stores, with hundreds of customers regularly making the drive for our food,” said Tina Lee, CEO of T&T Supermarkets. 

“After 30 successful years in Canada, we couldn’t be more excited to bring our unique offering closer to home for customers in the United States.”

“We can see the demand happening in Richmond, BC. In Richmond, not far from the border, on every American long weekend, we have a lot of Americans driving up three hours to shop our three stores in Richmond. One time we did a count and it was one in every 10 cars in our parking lot had Washington plates. And our cashiers can tell from the different credit cards that we had a lot of cross border shoppers and the feedback we were getting from customers ‘can you please open a store in Seattle?’

“Obviously we hope to serve them well in Vancouver but they can’t even shop the entire store. They love the experience but they can’t bring fruits and vegetables and meats back across the border. But they have a very good experience despite not being able to enjoy the whole value proposition that T&T presents. So after many years of this we thought it was very fitting that in our 30th year of doing business that we would try to step out into Seattle and we found a great location that was very hard to pass in Bellevue, Washington with a great developer in Kimco and decided to go for it.”

Lee said the door is open now to more stores in the US.

“At the moment, we’re very excited about getting our first store right. I find a lot of similarities to the new store that we opened in Montreal. If we do the first store well, yes certainly we’re open to exploring other locations as well but for the moment we’re very focused and excited about this single one,” said Lee.

Lee said no other new stores are planned for this year.

“Within this year we will be announcing our store plans for next year,” she said.

Tina Lee, CEO of T&T Supermarkets (CNW Group/T&T Supermarkets)

Filled with the Asian cuisine the stores have become famous for, the new location will feature a sushi counter, hot food bar, noodle station and in-store kitchen and bakery for freshly prepared delicacies like steam buns and pork belly bao, as well as Asian pastries and cakes.  The store will also be home to more than 300 of T&T’s private label products, including customer favourites like green onion pancake, Korean kalbi marinade, juicy pork dumplings and seaweed snacks, said the supermarket company.

Headquartered in Richmond, BC, T&T Supermarkets is the largest Asian supermarket chain in Canada, operating stores in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. The stores feature an expansive variety of fresh produce, meat, seafood, Asian packaged goods, trendy kitchenware and gifts, as well as in-store kitchens and bakeries. T&T Supermarkets was founded in Vancouver in 1993. In 2009, T&T Supermarkets was acquired by Loblaw Companies Limited.

“T&T’s anchor tenancy at Marketplace at Factoria begins an exciting chapter for the property, which includes new residential, retail, and dining experiences,” said Carmen Decker, President of Kimco Realty’s Western Region. “We search the globe for best-in-class retailers to elevate the shopping experience within our centers and are excited to welcome such an iconic Canadian brand to our retail collection.”

At the beginning of June, T&T opened its latest location in Canada – a 37,000-square-foot supermarket in Coquitlam, BC, and its second store in the city.

T&T Supermarket at CF Fairview Mall (Image: Cadillac Fairview)

The new store at 1085 Woolridge Street is located next to Ikea, visible to commuters from the Trans-Canada highway. The store is expected to have a regional draw, well positioned to serve the growing communities of Coquitlam, Lougheed, Burquitlam, Simon Fraser University, and New Westminster. 

“When we opened our first location in Coquitlam 23 years ago, no one could understand why – the Asian community at the time was much smaller than it is today,” said Lee. 

“But what we found was that the fresh food and assortment of flavours we offer appealed to a much wider, more diverse crowd and the store was a total success. As the community continues to grow, we’ve felt the love for T&T grow along with it. That’s why we’re so pleased to be opening a second, even bigger location to better serve the needs of the community and complement our original Coquitlam Centre location.”

T&T Supermarket Montreal (Image: T&T Supermarket)

And in May, the company opened at CF Fairview Mall in Toronto in 36,000 square feet. The supermarket opened in the former Sears space where an informal Asian food hall area has been created with other food service establishments.

Recently, it also announced it will be opening a new store in London, Ontario. The company confirmed the store, which is expected to open in Summer of 2024, is located at 530 Oxford St W, the southeast corner of Oxford St W and Wonderland Rd. At 39,000 square feet, it will be the largest Asian supermarket in town.

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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