North Richland Hills resident Sarah Behringer cannot wait to have an H Mart in Haltom City so she can buy fresh pork belly without driving an hour to Carrollton.

However, her dream is a potential nightmare for Haltom City business owner David Dang, because the Asian supermarket is a threat to his bottom line. 

The store, the retailer’s seventh in Texas and first in Tarrant County, will anchor a shopping center that city officials expect to bring economic growth and traffic to the area. Many Asian cuisine fans are excited to have a specialized market nearby — but Haltom’s Vietnamese population fears H Mart could hurt their small businesses.

“The businesses — they’re crying,” said Dang, owner of Nguyen Loi Oriental Supermarket, one of two Vietnamese markets in Haltom City.

The H Mart, along with approximately 50 to 60 surrounding businesses, will be part of a 50-acre development at the intersection of Loop 820 and Beach Street in Haltom City and just yards from Fort Worth city limits. The location is about 5 miles from a section of East Belknap Street where many other Asian businesses congregate.

The development is estimated to bring in $100 million in capital improvements and $80 to $90 million in gross annual sales, according to the city’s press release. 

Dang expects the new supermarket will have a significant impact on his smaller grocery store. 

“I expect my sales will drop between 10 to 30% at least for the first two years after they open,” Dang said. 

He believes the location of the shopping center will stop visitors from traveling farther down the street toward East Belknap, especially if they already have completed their shopping and dining there. 

“We cannot compete with H Mart,” Dang said. “We are talking about a total different ballgame — they are corporate.”

Much of the Vietnamese community’s frustration also comes from a feeling of betrayal, he said, noting that Haltom City Mayor An Truong is a Vietnamese immigrant.

“I deeply regret that the mayor didn’t call the Vietnamese business people to come out and talk about it,” he said. “How will it affect our business, our life — that’s the least a Vietnamese leader, the mayor, can do for us.”

Among Haltom City’s Asian community —  9% of its population — 42% are Vietnamese, according to the 2021 U.S. census. 

The mayor and the City Council represent all groups and make decisions to meet needs of the community as a whole, Truong said.

“I want to make sure that I am here to help all ethnic groups and investors, not just Asian,” he said. “There are several people who said why don’t I protect the Asian markets — I’m here to be the mayor of all ethnic groups.”

Dang understands the economic benefits the project can bring to Haltom City, including the creation of new jobs and tax monies, but feels one group is being neglected.

“Look at the other side — how about the small businesses that are hurting,”  he said. “H Mart can put most of us out of business.”

The concern extends to Vietnamese businesses outside of Haltom City. 

Michael Bui, owner of My Lan Bistro in Alliance Town Center, expects his restaurant business to slow down when the H Mart opens.

The food court in H Mart and surrounding outlets in the retail center will bring in new Asian dining options to the area. 

“There’s more competition,” he said. “No business is happy at all.”

But the mayor doesn’t owe the Vietnamese community a heads-up or a discussion, Bui said.  He doesn’t think the businesses would have had the ability to change the outcome. 

“We just have to deal with it,” he said. “It’s a free market, businesses will do whatever they can.”

Growing Haltom City

Competition among businesses in a city is crucial to its economic development, Truong said. He encourages small businesses to focus on what makes them unique and participate in gaining sales from the increased traffic. 

“The diverse business landscape will contribute to a vibrant and resilient local economy that will create a harmonious environment that benefits all,” he said. “We value both small businesses and large-scale businesses because we need both.”

A shopper loads a car with groceries from Nguyen Loi Oriental Supermarket on East Belknap Street on Aug. 23, 2023. (Sara Honda | Fort Worth Report)

City officials say the new development will increase sales taxes and property values and allow the City Council to lower property tax rates to ultimately help the Haltom City community as a whole. 

The incentive package for the project is currently under negotiation, but City Manager Rex Phelps described the deal as a “win-win.”  It will go before the City Council for approval once the incentives are finalized. 

During discussions with H Mart executives, he and Truong emphasized the location’s accessibility and potential for growth. 

“For a long time we’ve been trying to attract a grocery store and develop that on the 820 corridor,” Phelp said. “With the new express lanes and everything that they built, we knew it would end up being a very good place to develop.”

Despite mixed responses, Phelps says the development is something that was highly requested by residents. 

“There is overwhelming support from the community as a whole,” he said. “We knew we had a lot of interest in groceries from our citizens, and they wanted more restaurants and retail and things like that.”

Developers on the project are currently working on securing partner businesses to fill the retail center, and construction could begin as early as the beginning of 2024, Phelps said. 

Excited voices 

Behringer, the North Richland Hills resident, is an H Mart fan who has been waiting for a closer location for years. 

“Whenever I heard this announcement, it was just everything I’ve been wanting for,” she said. 

Because she enjoys cooking and trying new cuisines, Behringer makes a monthly trip to Carrollton to meet her grocery desires.

Her grocery list usually consists of items like pork belly, kimchi, frozen soup dumplings and apple-flavored Kit Kats. 

“You can’t find that kind of quality food anywhere else around this area so I stock up on that and freeze the heck out of it for the next month,” she said. 

Because of the long commute, Behringer and her husband spend the entire day in Carrollton stopping by businesses around the H Mart, trying new foods and getting inspiration for recipes.  

She expects people to do the same at the Haltom City location.

“It’s bringing jobs, bringing growth, it’s bringing community,” she said. “It’s just a whole new way to introduce this part of the metroplex.”

Behringer believes the growth in Haltom City traffic can occur without taking away from the smaller businesses. Shoppers can just differentiate between H Mart and traditional Vietnamese markets that are nearby, she said. 

A sign outside of Vietnam Plaza Supermarket, a grocery store on East Belknap Street that anchors a shopping center with other Asian businesses on Aug. 23, 2023. (Sara Honda | Fort Worth Report)

“H Mart has a different variety, like Korean and Japanese and other food options,” she said. “I think that will just fulfill the needs of people looking for more than Vietnamese food.” 

As someone who regularly enjoys foods from different cultures, Behringer finds that different businesses fill different niches.

Smaller businesses in Haltom City can provide what cannot be found elsewhere, too, she said. 

“I like to believe that people who are loyal to those areas and supermarkets will continue to focus around that,” she said. “That’s my hope, at least.”

Replicating H Mart history 

City manager Phelps expects the H Mart to have economic effects on Haltom City similar to Carrollton. 

“We look at the numbers and believe that their performance is really something that would work well here,” he said.

The H Mart in Carrollton anchors Korean Mall – Furneaux Creek Village Shopping Center.

What is H Mart?

H Mart is one of the largest Asian supermarket chains in the U.S., operating over 97 locations across the country, according to its website. The H in H Mart stands for “Han Ah Reum,” a Korean phrase that means “one arm full of groceries.” 

The supermarket was originally founded as a Korean grocery store in Queens, New York, in 1982, by II Yeon Kwon, a South Korean immigrant. 

As its name suggests, the store carries a wide range of groceries, but also has clothing, beauty products, home goods, a bakery and a food court.

The shopping center, located near the intersection of Old Denton Road and President George Bush Tollway, has been a catalyst for business since it opened in 2008, said Robert Winningham, director of economic development for Carrollton. 

The H Mart has impacted the entire area surrounding the intersection, Winningham said. Carrollton Town Center, a shopping center on the other side of the tollway, now houses many Asian businesses. 

“It went from low occupancy to now 100% occupied with a waiting list,” Winningham said. “The rent per square foot for both retail centers was roughly less than $10 and today, it’s around $41.” 

The growth is continuing, he said. 

In 2022, A multi-family complex was built just across the street from the H Mart retail center and the condominiums have sold out. 

After seeing the economic development H Mart has brought to its surrounding areas, Winningham expects the impact in Haltom City to be similar. 

“I have a hard time believing that any Asian business closed because of H Mart,” he said. “I don’t think it will have a negative impact on restaurants or retail.”

But, unlike Haltom City, there were no Asian supermarkets nearby before the retail center was developed, Winningham said. It is possible the situation may result in a different outcome.

Sara Honda is the audience engagement and social media fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Sara Honda is the 2023 fall fellow focusing on social media and audience engagement. She is currently a senior at Texas Christian University, with a major in news and media and minor in criminal justice....