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 buyers. 

This 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, the store manager and a shareholder in Zakka, said one of the store’s goals is to promote Asian culture and products. 

“For everybody, they are proud of something of their homeland,” Xie said. “We want to introduce that 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. As most products are directly imported from Asia, their packaging is often in the original languages, but Xie said there are English labels on the price tags.

The store’s products are mainly targeted toward young people, according to Xie. As the store opened in the summer — when most of the campus was empty — she said Zakka had a slow start. Yet, Xie expects business to pick up as students start visiting and spreading the word.

Clara Lee ’24 said she saw Zakka when she was heading towards Tous les Jours and decided to check it out. She said that while she felt some of the items were on the pricier side, it was still nice to see all the trendiest Asian products. 

“It’s pretty cool that they have a complete collection of the most popular snacks, and the most popular skincare and just what people would expect from a store like that,” Lee said.

Hannah Poeng 24 visited the store based on the suggestion of a friend and appreciated the wide range of products. She said she was specifically excited to see soybean drinks at Zakka because she had not been able to find them in any other store nearby. 

“I liked the diversity in the products because it felt a little closer to home,” Poeng said. “The only other real Asian market nearby is Hong Kong Market.”  

Zakka is far from being the first venture for store owner May Lin. She started The Whale Tea boba shop on Whitney Avenue in 2019. The boba shop has since expanded to a chain of 20 shops around the world. Lin also had a Chinese restaurant on the corner of Crown and Temple that operated for a few years before closing down in 2019. 

Lin is not done with her “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 most recent store in a wave of Asian stores that have come to New Haven in the past years. Zakka’s neighbor, the French-Asian bakery Tous les Jours, also opened during the summer. 

According to the New Haven Biz, the city’s Asian population has doubled in size in recent years. During the store opening, aapiNHV co-founder Christine Kim said that businesses like Lin’s could help cultivate Asian American community in the city.

Poeng said that while she appreciated the increase in Asian-based stores around New Haven, she would like to see more diversity within Asian culture with stores representing South East Asian or South Asian cultures as well. 

“There are many people here that would like to see themselves in the surrounding areas,” Poeng said. “You’re far away from home so you want to go to a place as close to home as possible. Maybe that’s a little shop with a little knick-knack that reminds you of home, or maybe it is 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 said Lin hopes to turn Zakka into a franchise like The Whale Tea.

“She hopes that where there is a Whale Tea, there is a Zakka next to it,” Xie said. 

Zakka is located at 841 Chapel St. 

Sai Rayala reports on Yale-New Haven relations. She previously covered climate and environmental efforts in New Haven. Originally from Powell, Ohio, she is a sophomore in Timothy Dwight College majoring in History.