Zakka Yale in New Haven offers a variety of Asian products for young shoppers.
Sharon Li, staff photographer
Offering everything from squishmallows to Korean mascara, a New Haven store specializing in various Asian products has opened its doors to local shoppers.
In June, Zakka Yale officially opened on Chapel Street with a grand opening in July attended by Mayor Justin Elicker and other city officials. The store sells a mix of Korean, Japanese, and Chinese beauty products, household items, and snacks. Yanhua Xie, store manager and Zakka shareholder, said one of the store’s goals is to promote Asian culture and products.
“For everyone, they are proud of something from their homeland,” Xie said. “We want to bring this to more people. We want to promote the good part of our cultures.
Xie said the store prides itself on selling authentic Asian products that are both high quality and aesthetically pleasing. Since most of the products are directly imported from Asia, their packaging is often in the original language, but Xie said there are English labels on the price tags.
The store’s products are mainly aimed at young people, according to Xie. When the store opened in the summer — when most of the campus was empty — she said Zakka got off to a slow start. Still, Xie expects business to pick up as students start to visit and spread the word.
Clara Lee ’24 said she saw Zakka on her way to Everyday and decided to check it out. She said that although she felt some items were more expensive, it was always nice to see all the trendiest Asian products.
“It’s pretty cool that they have a full collection of the hottest snacks and the hottest skincare products and exactly what people expect from a store like this,” Lee said.
Hannah Poeng 24 visited the store on the suggestion of a friend and liked the wide range of products. She said she was especially pleased to see soy drinks at Zakka because she couldn’t find them at any other store nearby.
“I liked the variety of products because I felt a little closer to home,” Poeng said. “The only other real Asian market nearby is the Hong Kong market.”
Zakka is far from store owner May Lin’s first venture. She opened The Whale Tea boba store on Whitney Avenue in 2019. The boba store has since grown to a chain of 20 stores around the world. Lin also had a Chinese restaurant on the corner of Crown and Temple which operated for a few years before closing in 2019.
Lin isn’t done with his “empire,” as Xie described it. She plans to open another high-end hotpot restaurant in Milford soon. There are also plans to open a new Chinese fast food restaurant in New Haven.
Zakka is the newest store in a wave of Asian stores that have come to New Haven in recent years. Zakka’s neighbor, the Franco-Asian bakery Tous les jours, also opened during the summer.
According to New Haven Biz, the city’s Asian population has doubled in size in recent years. At the store opening, aapiNHV co-founder Christine Kim said businesses like Lin could help cultivate the Asian American community in the city.
Poeng said that while she appreciates the increase in the number of Asian-based stores around New Haven, she would like to see more diversity within Asian culture with stores also representing Southeast Asian cultures or from South Asia.
“There are a lot of people here who would like to see themselves around,” Poeng said. “You’re away from home, so you want to go somewhere as close to home as possible. Maybe it’s a small boutique with a little trinket that reminds you of home, or maybe it’s a restaurant where you just want a taste of home.
Xie said Zakka is open to expanding and including products from other Asian cultures in the future. For now, she says, Lin hopes to turn Zakka into a franchise like The Whale Tea.
“She hopes that where there’s a Whale Tea, there’s a Zakka next door,” Xie said.
Zakka is located at 841 Chapel St.