Uwajimaya celebrates its ‘dream’ store
By Florangela Davila
Seattle Union Record
Uwajimaya, the region’s largest Asian grocery company, celebrated its most
ambitious project to date Wednesday: a $35 million retail and residential
project, anchored by a grander Uwajimaya store, in Seattle’s
The new Uwajimaya, on Sixth Avenue and South Weller Street, one block south
of its previous location and twice as big as its former self, has been open since Nov. 22.
Ellen M. Banner / Seattle Union Record
Masaye Nakagawa, a member of the group Fubuki, plays Japanese drums, or taiko, at the Uwajimaya grand-opening ceremonies Wednesday.
At the official ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday morning, the project was lauded with taiko
drumming and toasts of sake to the new,
"This is the accumulation of a lot of dreams," said Tomio Moriguchi, chief executive officer of
Uwajimaya, whose Japanese immigrant father founded the store 72 years ago.
Back then, Uwajimaya was no more than a truck that sold fish cakes to
Japanese farmers, loggers and fishermen at work sites.
Uwajimaya, still family run by a host of second- and third-generation
Moriguchis, operates grocery stores in Bellevue and Beaverton, Ore. The new
Seattle store, replete with its tidy stacks of Asian produce, its racks of
kimonos, its offerings of Hello Kitty and Pochaco, is a glossy and already-popular business.
Sales this year from all three stores are expected to reach $30 million,
according to company officials.
Shoppers and guests alike Wednesday marveled at the expanse of offerings.
"You usually think of an Oriental supermarket as just some corner store,"
said Alex Tan, a businessman from the Philippines, who donated the 18-ton,
20-foot-tall granite lantern that stands outside the new store. "Who could
imagine a store could become this size?"
The new Uwajimaya store, developed with Lorig Associates, anchors a
project named Uwajimaya Village, which features several retail tenants,
including Tully’s Coffee and the Kinokuniya bookstore, and 176 apartments
renting for $885 to $2,500 a month. Residents are expected to move in
starting March 1.
But the Uwajimaya project, regarded as an economic blessing by some in the
neighborhood, has been criticized by others because the size of the project
required taking one block of South Lane Street. That block, acquired with
city approval, is now part of a parking lot for the new Uwajimaya store.
Before construction began last year, some Chinese businesses and others
joined leaders from the Chong Wa Benevolent Association to protest the
Uwajimaya project, urging the city not to accommodate the new grocery store
at the expense of taking one block of
Project foes, who raised $140,000 and collected 4,000 signatures, formed a
group called Save Lane Street and sued the project developers and the city
for failing to consider the size of the proposed project. They lost before
the city hearing examiner and in King
County Superior Court. The case remains before the state Court of Appeals.
When Florangela Davila isn’t on strike, she writes about race and
ethnicity for The Seattle Times. She can be reached at