Inside Queens Superette, a Korean-American Market in San Francisco

At Queens, fresh kimchi and Chapagetti instant noodles share space with bags of Rancho Gordo beans and bottles of natural wine. 

Clara Lee and Eddo Kim, who are married and opened the hybrid market-deli in the Inner Sunset neighborhood last summer, intentionally straddle the line between nostalgic and contemporary. The superette’s shelves, full of direct-from-Korea essentials and local products they love, represent their Korean-American identities. 

Both their parents immigrated from Korea to the United States in the 1980s; Lee’s from Seoul and Kim’s from Busan and Yeongju. Lee was raised in New York and Kim in Los Angeles. They left careers in the education world to launch Queens—to the initial chagrin of their parents, who worked long hours in small businesses so their children wouldn’t have to. They started by delivering home-cooked Korean meals to homes throughout San Francisco and hosting pop-ups before opening the market. As an essential business Queens has remained open throughout the Bay Area’s shelter-in-place order, with all prepared food available for takeout only. All of Queens’ goods are now also available for local and national delivery.

They named the superette after the queens of Lee’s lineage, the women through whom generations of recipes and flavors have been passed down. 

“We shoulder that responsibility of preserving culture,” said Kim, who can often be found working the floor, pointing customers to a new aged soy sauce or sharing the best uses for their house-made chili oil. “For us, it’s being able to have a space where we can connect past, present and think about what the future looks like.”

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