In-Store Experience: Gangnam Market

The Asian-American grocery store in Chicago leverages neon signs throughout.

If a retailer were a neon bar sign, Asian-American hybrid grocery store Gangnam Market would be that sign. Located in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood, Gangnam Market is part supermarket and part food court/bar. It just opened late last year. 

Local restaurateur and Gangnam owner Kenny Yang told nonprofit newsroom Block Club Chicago in December that the business’ name was inspired by the Gangnam neighborhood in Seoul as well as a little after 2012 viral hit song “Gangnam Style.”

On the outside of the store, which is fitted in between and below residential buildings and kitty corner from a CVS Pharmacy, it doesn’t look like anything special. Without the bright and colorful lights shining through the windows, you probably wouldn’t even know it’s a supermarket. It looks small — and in comparison to a Walmart or Albertsons location, it is — but inside, it feels much larger and spacious. 


Upon entry, guests are met with pops of color, vibrant artwork and neon signs hanging above a large food court and bar full of authentic Asian and American spots to eat and drink traditional foods as well as a spacious seating area. Dedicated concepts offer myriad authentic dishes from various Asian cuisines, including freshly made bubble tea and Gangnam Taco, the retailer’s Korean-inspired menu. 

My favorite part of the food court was a cluster of Sakura (i.e., cherry blossoms) hanging from the ceiling, reminiscent of one of Japan’s biggest national obsessions.

To get to the shopping aisles, guests walk through a motion-sensored gate, where the color continues, though the navigational signs hanging from the ceiling now appear in English. There are also neon signs in every department.

In terms of assortment, the store stocks as much, if not more, product from national brands (many in English) as it does Asian products. It’s actually the only store I’ve been to in Chicago, outside of Chinatown, that stocks unique flavors from national manufacturers like Mondelez International and PepsiCo/Frito-Lay that are mostly sold internationally. But those products are plentiful at Gangnam Market, and even receive prime merchandising space, such as dedicated endcaps and branded floorstands, the same ones you would see at any other U.S. retailer, throughout the store.

About the concept, Yang also told Block Club Chicago, “We want to keep their local favorites and add a little spice on the Asian elements,” he said. “It’s actually a bit of local favorites with just a little bit of Asian twist.”

The confectionary assortment seemed to follow me throughout the store. Nearly at the end of every aisle in every department, there were unique Asian candy products (as well as some from national brands) merchandised on dedicated shelves and other miscellaneous displays. 

Other unique elements of the store:

 A cotton candy machine located at the entrance that almost looks like a vending or claw machine upon first glance.

 A robust assortment of individual beverages from national and emerging brands merchandised on a long refrigerated open display.

 A sushi section in the produce department that goes far beyond what you would find at a traditional grocer, including fresh poke bowls and dango (Japanese dumplings).

 Multiple anime/Asian-inspired art pieces.

 A large, refrigerated display for sake variations. 

 A walk-in beer freezer.

 Stringria Coffee and Tea Bar offering bubble tea and coffees with a to-go window for the summer.

 Only a handful of checkout registers.