When a multi-generational Japanese-American retail family wanted to develop a new concept for the urban food shopping experience, they contacted Graham Baba to help bring their idea to life. The architects traveled to Japan to research Japanese grocery designs that would work in urban Seattle. The resulting 5,500-square-foot market, which takes its name from the Japanese word for ocean, boasts a poke bar, live seafood tank and a master fishmonger station to assist with the selection of the perfect fillet or sashimi cut, as well as a curated offering of Asian grocery and gift items. Additionally, the market sought a venue from which to support their wholesale business that caters to local restaurateurs and businesses.
Taking its design cue from the store’s name, the market is conceived as an open and transparent space, both in terms of design and operation. The floor plan enables guests to see from the front to the back of the store. Food is prepared in front of guests at various food stations located with the setting. The aesthetic is simple and emphasizes craft. A neutral palette of materials helps to focus attention on the colorful food and products. Product shelving wraps the perimeter of the store, and is organized through a series of vertical fins with flexible shelving between. The middle of the store is devoted to grab-n-go cold cases.
Throughout, materials take their inspiration from Japanese craft and design—blackened steel frames and countertops, bamboo shelving and casework, polished raw concrete floors, and subtle wave and fish-scale shapes that work their way through the space as display graphics and a hand-textured plaster feature wall decoration. The seafood prep area a seven-feet-tall by twelve-feet-wide live seafood tank. A small dining area with occasional tables and chairs is situated next to the entry helps to animate the space, and sushi bar counter seating enables guests to interact with the sashimi cutter.