British Columbia

Metro Vancouver-founded T&T Supermarket to open 1st U.S. store in 2024

In a press release on Thursday, T&T Supermarket CEO Tina Lee announced the chain's first store in the U.S., in Bellevue, Wash., is set to open in the summer of 2024.

The 76,000-square-foot store will open in Bellevue, Wash., next summer

Exterior shot of T&T Supermarket store in B.C.
T&T Supermarket was founded by Canadian businesswoman Cindy Lee in 1993. (Robert Krbavac/CBC)

Metro Vancouver-founded T&T Supermarket is expanding south of the border.

The grocery store was founded by businesswoman Cindy Lee in 1993, and has since become the largest Asian supermarket chain in Canada, with more than 30 stores in B.C., Alberta, Ontario and Quebec.

In a press release on Thursday, T&T Supermarket CEO Tina Lee — Cindy's daughter — announced the chain's first store in the U.S., in Bellevue, Wash., is set to open in the summer of 2024.

"It feels like a big step because it's a new country," said Lee, adding they have noticed a significant number of shoppers from the U.S. at their Richmond stores, especially during American long weekends.

Texas resident Patricia Blasquez says T&T Supermarket was one of her family's first stops during their visit to Vancouver this week.

"I think it's really cool. We were really surprised by how much cheaper it is than the Asian supermarkets that we have in Texas," she said.

"Hopefully it expands to Texas."

Experts say bringing T&T to a city near Seattle is a strategic move, testing the waters for future global expansion.

"They are moving into a new market. However, Seattle is fairly low risk for them, the cultures are fairly similar to Vancouver and the demographic makeup is fairly similar," Jarrett Vaughan, adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business, told CBC News.

"What they've done really well is they've understood their customers extremely well," he said.

"They know who their target customer is and they've been able to cater to them really well."

Diverse demographic

Melissa Lee with Vancouver's Chinese Canadian Museum agrees with Vaughan, saying Washington state has a large Asian diaspora and needs more diverse grocery stores.

"I think it's great. Asia is over 40 countries and the palate of Canadians, of North Americans, is more cultivated and more diverse as more people travel, as more people immigrate here," Lee told CBC News.

Woman with black hair and sunglasses on the street.
Melissa Lee, CEO of Vancouver's Chinese Canadian Museum, says there is a need for more diverse grocery stores across North America. (Murray Titus/CBC News)

According to the release, the store will hold its first job fair this summer for supervisory and higher positions.

The company is also establishing a regional office in the greater Los Angeles area, home to the biggest port in the U.S., and hiring for office positions including buyers and category managers.

The release says the new, 76,000-square-foot store will create more than 300 jobs, feature a sushi counter, hot food bar, noodle station and in-store kitchen and bakery. 

In the release, Tina Lee said the company is open to launching more stores south of the border, but for now it's focused on making this one a success.

"We're very focused and excited about our first store," she said.

"And that certainly leaves the door open to more."


Janella Hamilton


Janella Hamilton is a video journalist at CBC Vancouver.

With files from The Canadian Press