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30,000-square-foot supermarket opens at Korea Town Plaza

Supermarkets are struggling as the recession maintains a stranglehold on the Las Vegas economy, but the registers were ringing this week at a new Korean-owned grocery store.

Greenland Supermarket on Wednesday became the anchor tenant in Korea Town Plaza, which has 900,000 square feet of building space on 10 acres on the northheast corner of Spring Mountain Road and Rainbow Boulevard.

The 30,000-square-foot supermarket plans a grand opening at 3 p.m. Friday.

It occupies space previously used by an Albertsons supermarket, which closed in 2006.

The number of shuttered supermarkets has increased recently. Applied Analysis counted 12 groceries that have been shuttered in the Las Vegas area since December 2007.

However, Mimi Jang, the first-generation Korean-American who is chairwoman of Greenland Supermarket, was upbeat about the timing and prospects for the new grocery.

It’s better to start during tough times than during booms, she said. “Start from the bottom, work up.”

Jang has 36 years of experience in food wholesaling. She and her husband, Hayun Chun, president of the company, run two retail supermarkets in the Los Angeles area. They also operate a wholesale grocery, which supplies other retail grocerers and restaurants. Because of the wholesale operations, Jang said, Greenland can sell fresher foods at lower prices than competitors.

“I’m so happy,” she said as she watched customers line up at the store’s cash registers Wednesday, the first day of business. “The customers are happier than I am.”

The customers were a mixture of Asians and non-Asians.

The market offers foods not found in typical groceries, but also carries a standard line of meat and produce. This week it offered Korean pears and Fuji apples that were the size of two fists. It also offered marinated beef and fresh seafood.

Greenland leases space from shopping center owners Hae Un Lee, the owner of Lee’s Discount Liquors, and business associate James Yu.

The owners are excited about prospects for renting space for specialty food shops around a 200-seat food court. Korea Town Plaza has secured an optometrist’s office for one glass-enclosed shop but has several available for rent to retailers and offices.

Lee and Yu bought the shopping center in 2006 and hope to establish it as the western gateway to an informal Asian business district that extends along Spring Mountain Road to the China Town Plaza shopping center.

“This is not just another shopping center. We are trying to transform this to a Korean cultural center,” Yu said.

For example, the center plans to hold a Korean food festival with support from the South Korean government. Lee and Yu estimate that Las Vegas has 200,000 Asian-Americans, of which 30,000 are Korean.

Contact reporter John G. Edwards at jedwards@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0420.

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