Skip to main content

TOUR: H Mart - Olney, Philadelphia, PA

H Mart
Owner: Il Yeon Kwon
Opened: 2020
Previous Tenants: SuperFresh (1996-2002) > Food Basics (2003-2006)
Location: 6201 N Front St, Olney, Philadelphia, PA
Photographed: July 2021
As I've mentioned on previous posts, there are Asian supermarkets scattered throughout Philadelphia, and we've checked out a few of them. Lawncrest and Olney each have Asian populations of roughly 12-14%, and three of our Lawncrest stops were Asian supermarkets (E&D, Ben City, and Farmer's Best). Surprisingly, or perhaps due to the presence of these local competitors (plus an existing store just about a mile and a half outside of this neighborhood), the country's largest Asian supermarket chain -- H Mart -- didn't have any presence in Philadelphia until 2020. They did, however, have locations in Elkins Park all of half a mile from the city border, Upper Darby about 3/4 of a mile west of the city limits, and Langhorne a bit farther, about 7 miles northeast of the city. (Not to mention Cherry Hill, too.)
The Adams Run Plaza, which appears to have been built around the 1950s, was originally home to a Food Fair supermarket. Ultimately, it was subdivided before being demolished in 1995. The following year, the strip mall was rebuilt with an A&P-owned SuperFresh as the anchor tenant. SuperFresh moved from a now-demolished location at B Street and Olney Avenue, about 3/4 of a mile south. SuperFresh closed in 2002, then the following year was reopened by parent company A&P as a Food Basics discount store. Food Basics was short-lived, closing in 2006. The space actually remained vacant all the way until H Mart began construction for their store in 2018. The construction was, of course, put on hold by the coronavirus, resuming as soon as possible for the store's opening in September 2020. By the way, to see a picture of the store as a closed Food Basics, check out JoshAustin610's photo here. That's also where I got the history of the location from.
Before we take our store tour, here's a quick shot of the beautiful sky over the parking lot of the store. I was here around 8 PM on a summer night, so you'll see there was hardly anyone in the store. My impression is that the store is doing quite well, and why shouldn't it -- at 55,000 square feet, this is the largest Asian supermarket in northern Philadelphia with the exception of the Farmer's Best. It's also by far the best-run and the most beautiful.
The layout is interesting here. We enter on the left of the storefront, then make a right to walk across the front wall through the Wall of Values to produce in the front-right corner. The rest of the right side of the store is frozen foods, with nonfoods at the back of the first aisle. Meat and seafood are on the back wall, and in the last aisle there are several small areas for small businesses to lease that hadn't yet been filled when I visited. On the front wall is another store and a bakery, with the food court in the front left corner of the store.
As we can see, this store is absolutely gorgeous. With the exception of the exterior, absolutely nothing is left over from SuperFresh/Food Basics -- not even refrigerators or other fixtures. Above we're looking across the produce department with the right-side wall of the store straight ahead and the front wall to the right.
By the way, the reason the layout is set up like this is that the cross street on the right side of the store, Godfrey Ave, is at a lower elevation than the store. In other words, the floor of the store is only at ground-level on the left side of the storefront. Why the layout wasn't reversed, with a mirror image of what's currently there, I don't know.
I commented on the low ceilings at the ShopRite a few blocks south of here. As we see, there's no problem with low ceilings here! Anybody know if SuperFresh/Food Basics had exposed ceilings like this or did they have a drop ceiling?
We move on to frozen foods behind produce in the first aisle.
As we've seen before, the decor in the newest H Marts is beautiful. Their middle-aged stores are quite nice too, and the oldest stores like Cherry Hill (as I said in that post) are a dying breed. No great loss. What that represents in this neighborhood is an emphasis on shopping experience and atmosphere that's not present at any of the other Asian supermarkets around here. Obviously, some of the stores like Farmer's Best are simply in disrepair, while others like Mayfair Market are in excellent repair and perfectly adequate, but not beautiful despite being around the same age as this H Mart. H Mart certainly has more of a budget to dedicate to store decor and design, as well as an in-house design department -- none of which those other store operators have.
I'm also aware that these stores are all not directly comparable. H Mart is a Korean-focused store, while Farmer's Best emphasizes Chinese foods and Hung Vuong has more of a focus on Vietnamese foods. That said, each does include a variety of Asian foods and H Mart is certainly the most international of them all.
At the back of the first aisle, behind the frozen foods department, is a kitchenwares department with everything from small appliances to plates and glasses.
Looked like very nice products, too. The first grocery aisle is home to refrigerated foods. I'm forgetting exactly where the dairy department is -- H Mart does have a dedicated dairy section for staples like milk, eggs, and orange juice, but I can't remember where it is.
Again, as we see, everything in the store was brand-new when H Mart opened in 2020. The flooring is polished concrete, which looks fantastic here.
Here we see the meat department on the back wall, with seafood in the back corner to the left.
More great signage across the grocery aisles.
And as we get into the back left corner, the back aisle actually forms a dead-end behind the food court (excuse me, the Market Eatery). Service meat and seafood are on the back wall, with packaged and refrigerated items facing as we see below.
The seafood department, much like we see at Food Bazaar, has equally large sections for whole fish and prepared fillets. What H Mart also has, visible to the left below, is a section for live fish and seafood.
And looking over to the meat department, we have the butcher, the marinated meat (usually set up as a self-service bar like a salad bar but with pre-packaged items here due to the coronavirus), and the dry aged beef.
Back to the seafood department.
One more look across the back wall before we start heading up to the front. I love the lighting on this back wall section and the wood paneling, even though it's just large-scale printed decals.
In the last aisle, there are spaces that can be leased out to small businesses. Some of them were filled when I visited, but others were just filled with other stock from H Mart.
And one in the front was the beer & wine department. I believe this is the first H Mart I've ever seen that sells alcohol of any kind.
And looking across the front-end back towards produce.
Here's the registers, with customer service on this side of the wall of values to the left. But of course, even though we have now toured the whole supermarket, we're not done. Now it's on to the Market Eatery!
One more section of refrigerated items, including single-serving beverages, in the front corner. Opposite that is Artbox, a company that bills itself as "the UK's dream destination for cute authentic character goods, stationery, and homeware from Japan." It seems that a location or two have made it into the United States through H Mart. I bought no cute authentic character goods.
Next to Artbox is a Paris Baguette, and if we look to the right in the below photo, we look into the main Market Eatery Food Hall.
The seafood and meat departments that we saw in the back are on the other side of the wall we see straight ahead below.
And below, we're looking back up to the front of the Food Hall, and we can see the emergency exit straight ahead.
As we can see, this H Mart is absolutely beautiful and better-maintained than its closest competitors. It seems like it's very popular, too, with an average rating of 4.6/5 stars on Google Maps after 1900 reviews. We'll be checking out another H Mart near the city, too, but for now we're going to see a former supermarket roughly half a mile west on Grocery Archaeology!


  1. Before reading your article, I had mistakenly believed that the A&P at the corner of Olney Avenue and B Street was a Centennial that never reopened as a Super Fresh but instead became an O&O/IGA which was later demolished. It turns out that I was confusing the B & Olney location with the A&P in Northeast Philadelphia at the Parkwood Shopping Center at 12301 Academy Road.

    While I was not able to ascertain the exact opening date for the Olney A&P, it seems likely that it opened sometime between 1/31/79 and 2/4/79. Looking at A&P advertisements in The Philadelphia Inquirer, the B & Olney location was not listed (among A&P's Philadelphia locations) in that chain's ad dated 1/31/79 but was listed in a 2/4/79 ad. Given that A&P's Philadelphia Division was almost certainly losing a lot of money at that point, I must say I am surprised that a new A&P opened so soon before the dissolution of that division. Also, based on historic aerial photos, it does not appear that store had the familiar 70s A&P awning.

    Although the Olney A&P had initially been slated to close in March 1982, it appears that it lasted until July of that year. (The last date I saw the store mentioned in an A&P newspaper ad was 7/7/82.) The store reopened on 8/1/82 as Super Fresh along with five other Philadelphia locations:

    *Broad & Jefferson Streets
    *5th & Pine Streets
    *Oxford & Cottman Avenues
    *Wayne & Chelten Avenues
    *57th & Vine Streets

    As an interesting side note, the Olney Super Fresh received some very damaging publicity early on, when in November 1982, a man said he found a corroded razor blade inside a carton of Tropicana orange juice that he bought at the store. (The well-publicized cyanide-laced Tylenol murders in the Chicago area had occurred in September and October of 1982.)

    FYI, the relocated Super Fresh store opened on 9/4/96. I was unfortunately unable to ascertain the closing date of that Super Fresh, the opening and closing dates of the Food Basics, or the opening date of the H Mart. Apparently, the former A&P/Super Fresh (and adjacent shopping center) at B & Olney was demolished sometime between 1996 and 1999. It is now the site of Grover Washington Middle School, which was under construction in the 1999 aerial photo (on the Historic Aerials website).

    As for this H Mart, it certainly looks like a very nice store. I've never visited an H Mart, and the ones closest to where I live are in Edison and Paramus (both of which are quite a distance for me).

    --A&P Fan


Post a Comment