A Beloved Asian Market Undergoes a Thoughtful Redesign to Celebrate Its 100-year-old Brand

Honorable Mention, Mixed Use

Working in tandem with the executive leadership, merchandising and store leadership teams of Seattle’s iconic Uwajimaya Asian Market, the collaborative design team of Cushing Terrell and Hoshide Wanzer Architects provided brand integration and store planning services to revitalize Uwajimaya’s historic Chinatown-International District flagship store. The first Uwajimaya opened in Tacoma, Wash., in the 1930s, and the Seattle store has been in operation for more than 20 years, a milestone it celebrated with the unveiling of the renewed store environment.

Goals of the design included modernizing the nearly 100-year-old brand image to keep pace with the new world of experiential retail and celebrate the store’s unique Asian-inspired produce, meat and seafood offerings. In addition, the store layout was revised to encourage exploration and easier in-store navigation without losing the Uwajimaya character longtime loyalists know and love.

Knowing that the redesign had implications beyond aesthetic updates to the well-worn 59,416-square-foot store, the design team worked with a cultural anthropologist, who interviewed shoppers—occasional and loyal alike—and talked extensively with the Uwajimaya family to discover what was most meaningful to their shopping experience. The insight gained was applied to thoughtful, impactful changes to the store environment without departing from Uwajimaya’s beloved and unique character.

One key upgrade was a Bussanten space—akin to a fair, showcasing goods and specialties—by the food demonstration station. Uwajimaya works with vendors from certain cities or regions in Japan to feature specialty foods and products from that region. The space also can be used for promotional displays.

The revised and reimagined store plan created improved sightlines from the store entrance to the standout seafood and sashimi areas at the back of the store. The new, uninterrupted sightline offers an immediate invitation to participate in experiential retail. This approach plays out through enhanced, multi-sensory customer interaction at the sashimi-cutting station, BBQ duck-cutting station and the food demonstration stations.

The food court was enhanced to align with the overall revitalization goals. Improvements include a renovated seating area with new furnishings, lighting and layout. Additionally, store security was enhanced by?redirecting?traffic?flow and?circulation, an added benefit of which was more convenience for the commonly sought grab-and-go offerings.

“I wish this renovation had been done while I lived in Seattle! A humble program and one that many people from many walks of life experience on a regular basis. Wonderfully reorganized and upgraded shopping experience. Uwajimaya is so much more than a grocery store, and this project is evidence of the significance this market has in the local neighborhood and broader community.”

Katie Hunt, architect, LRK, Metamorphosis Awards Judge

Retrofit Team

METAMORPHOSIS AWARD WINNER and ARCHITECT, MEP ENGINEER
AND STORE PLANNING:
Cushing Terrell

  • Kara Eberle
  • Alice Wang
  • Mike Amestoy (mechanical, plumbing)
  • David Sodini (electrical)

ARCHITECT AND INTERIOR DESIGNER: Hoshide Wanzer Architects

GENERAL CONTRACTOR: Abbott Construction

STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: Swenson Say Fagét

LIGHTING: Collaboration between Cushing Terrell and Hoshide Wanzer Architects

Materials

REFRIGERATED CASES: Hussmann

LIGHTING: Chameleon Lighting, Pinnacle Architectural Lighting and ConTech Lighting

FLOORING TOPCOAT: Ucrete DP BC6 from BASF

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