Uwajimaya: A Commitment to Culture

Pan-Asian Grocer Honors the Past While Preparing for the Future

Grocery stores provide an essential service to millions of people, helping meet the most basic need of feeding ourselves and our families. But beyond this fundamental offering, grocers often have an outsized impact on the areas around them. They can serve as gathering spaces, sources of culinary inspiration, and reflections of cultural and social environments. They offer a give and take of influences that represent the pulse of communities.

Seattle’s Chinatown-International District (CID) has been the cultural nexus for the city’s Asian American community for more than 100 years. The area has given rise to countless businesses that have served as purveyors to and cultural touchstones of generations. Situated just south of Seattle’s downtown core, it also is a favorite spot for tourists and locals of all ethnic backgrounds to experience the delicacies of other cultures.

Like many urban areas, the CID has felt social, political, and economic impact. Challenges including crime, theft, and homelessness have stressed many area businesses. Surrounding development pressures are also creeping in, with some erosion of historic influences. This year, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s annual list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places includes Seattle’s Chinatown International District.

One stalwart of the community, however, is Asian grocer Uwajimaya, whose first store opened in Tacoma, WA in the 1920s and later relocated to Seattle. The flagship Seattle store has been a beacon in the CID for more than 75 years…

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