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Innovating the Grocery Experience: An Interview with Brian Hoang of Yellow Bee

Beyond the Aisles: Evolving the Grocery Formats


We had the pleasure of chatting with Brian Hoang about the story behind Yellow Bee Market. Brian Hoang, the Co-founder & CEO of Hong Kong Market since 2008, showcases his entrepreneurial spirit and dedication to quality in every aspect of his work. Through the recent opening of Yellow Bee Market & Café in Vulcan’s Cypress Development in Seattle, Brian is reshaping the grocery shopping landscape with his inventive approach. Tiscareno architects designed the new grocery concept.

Tiscareno: What is the story behind this new grocery concept?


Brian: I’ve been in the grocery business for over 15 years, and I run a chain of supermarkets, a specialty supermarket called Hong Kong Market. We have three locations in the south King County area:  Kent, Burien, and Federal Way. COVID has changed everybody’s life, and we’ve all witnessed the trend of people staying and working from home more often.  

 

During this time, I noticed mid-rise apartments are popping up everywhere in the urban areas of Seattle and nearby cities due to strong demand in high tech industry. The first thing that came to my mind was about people and traffic is food. How do people get their groceries? Carrying large bags of groceries on public transit is no pleasant task. However, this is not a new problem, but I think the problem just got bigger. There’s a real demand for convenient access to perishable groceries at these developments.   

 

This inspired me to think about a Convenient Market concept. There are supermarkets like Safeway, and there are convenient stores like 7-Eleven. In my opinion, a Supermarket is often a destination, and convenient store is in the business to provide convenience. There’s a large gap between these two primary business models. A supermarket requires a large space but provide everything from perishable to toothpaste. A convenient store can fit in a 2,000 sqf space but provides customers with mostly drinks and snacks.  

 

Yellow Bee is all about filling the gap between supermarket and convenient store, and I like to call this model Convenient Market. What is a Convenient Market? It is a Supermarket without onsite production space, and a fine-tuned grocery selection.  At a Convenient Market like Yellow Bee, customers can expect to find hot foods, grab and go, daily necessity grocery items and perishable items like meat, seafood, and produce. While people are shifting towards online ordering and delivery, but in dense urban areas, I think there’s a great opportunity for a Convenient Market concept where people could have a short walk to get fresh brew coffee, hot foods, and can pick up some groceries.  


Tiscareno: And how does this tie into current trends in grocery stores, especially in terms of customer experience?


Brian: In recent years, we've seen a rise in mixed-use developments, both small and large,

in urban areas like Seattle. This trend is driven by the high-tech economy and young professionals’ desire to live in dense urban environments. There's a need for a premium convenient market in these areas, where people can not only grab food and daily groceries but also hang out and enjoy a coffee. I think Yellow Bee provides the convenience, ambience, and sustainability that aligns with the lifestyle of the targeted customers. Yellow Bee is the product of re-imagining the way people live, shop, and eat.     


Tiscareno: Why is the name Yellow Bee?   


Brian: The name Yellow Bee in a way represents my customers, who are like busy bees— busy, hardworking individuals living in mid-rise apartments. . Initially, I wanted to call it Busy Bee to reflect this. However, I wanted to emphasize the happy vibe that our customers will experience at the store, and since yellow is the happiest color in the light spectrum according to scientific research, I named it Yellow Bee.    

 

Tiscareno: How about the hexagon shape and the design? Can you tell us more about that?   


Brian: The hexagon shape represents the density of urban areas, with buildings and spaces packed closely together. Tiscareno Architects incorporated these polygons into the design, giving it a modern look and urban feel, representing the places where we live.  

 

Tiscareno: What was your thought process behind incorporating Bahn Mi into the grocery store’s offerings?   


Brian: Banh Mi is a Vietnamese sandwich originated from the French’s baguette with history back in the 1860s. It’s fulfilling and a healthy choice that I think more people should know about. While it's often perceived as fast food, but it can be quite a refreshing grab and go. I think it is a great alternative to traditional fast-food options like burgers or tacos.  Yellow Bee will offer authentic Banh Mi while bringing new fusion recipes to Banh Mi that I'm excited for people to try. 

 

Tiscareno: How did your experience with Hong Kong Market inform this project?   


Brian: My experience with Hong Kong Market gave me the connections and knowledge needed for this project. While Hong Kong Market focuses on specialty groceries, Yellow Bee will target a more mainstream customer base. We've partnered with UNFI and C&S Wholesale, two major grocery distributors, to ensure a balance between specialty and mainstream products. Yellow Bee will offer a diverse range of products, appealing to both specialty and mainstream customers.   

 

About Yellow Bee  

Yellow Bee Market and Café is an innovative grocery concept, blending a convenient market with a café experience. The inaugural store will debut in the Yesler Terrace neighborhood, nestled within Vulcan’s Cypress mixed-use development. With ambitious plans for growth, Yellow Bee aims to establish five locations across the Pacific Northwest by 2027.   


Targeting urban neighborhoods characterized by a high density of young, busy professionals, Yellow Bee Market and Café is primed to redefine urban grocery and café offerings. Offering a seamless blend of grab-and-go foods and fresh groceries, Yellow Bee creates a dynamic environment for socializing and relaxation. Noteworthy food offerings include a full menu of banh mi options featuring traditional and fusion approaches, creating a unique and enticing food experience. Future expansions will introduce additional branded food products, further enriching the Yellow Bee Market and Café experience.   


Brian Hoang  


Brian Hoang is a serial entrepreneur, investor, and distinguished alumnus of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. As the Co-founder & Managing Partner of West Principles Investment since 2013, Brian has overseen the acquisition and development of notable properties such as the Northshore Village Shopping Center and the Burien Square Shopping Center, managing a robust $30M+ commercial real estate and multifamily portfolio. 

 

With a passion for innovation in the grocery industry, Brian co-founded and serves as CEO of the highly successful Hong Kong Market (HKM) chain since 2008. Under his leadership, HKM has expanded to include locations such as Hong Kong Market Federal Way and Hong Kong Market Burien, with the network achieving impressive total sales exceeding $37M in 2023. 

 

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