Opening a shop on Larchmont is a dream come true for Stephanie Lui Hjelmeseth (pronounced yelm-seth), the cofounder behind Suá Sichuan Superette, which is scheduled to open later this summer at 144 N. Larchmont Blvd. The fashion and beauty content creator moved into the neighborhood eight years ago, and though she credits her husband with finding Larchmont, she now walks to the Boulevard frequently with her young son.
We’ve heard this before as we’ve reported on the opening of news businesses on Larchmont in the last year, Thirteen Lune and Terroni come to mind. Owners of both those businesses, also women, live in the neighborhood and have always wanted to have a business on Larchmont. Hjelmeseth is a kind of a combination of both of those stories, beauty and food. She grew up in the food business, her family owns and operates Chong Qing Mei Wei Szechuan restaurant, one of the first authentic Chinese restaurants in Orange County. Over the last several years, she said, her parents have been discussing their retirement, and Hjelmeseth starting thinking about that legacy.
“It was like the all the universe conspired,” Hjelmeseth told the Buzz. “At the same time I was thinking about how wonderful it would be if I could find good Chinese food everyday, that’s within walking distance.” And as she was ruminating about her next adventure, she’d also been developing a friendship with Jing Gao, a food entrepreneur who created Fly by Jing, a line of authentic Asian condiments, in 2018. Her first cookbook, “The Book of Sichuan Chili Crisp: Spicy Recipes and Stories From Fly by Jing’s Kitchen,” debuts on Sept. 26.
“I discovered her sauces and just sent a message to her Instagram account, saying thank you for making this wonderfully authentic product,” said Hjelmeseth. “Naturally, as a founder launching a company, she replied back!”
The two women connected and so began their collaboration. Suá Sichuan Superette is the result.
Suá, (pronounced swā like the first part of suave) is a Sichuan word that translates “to play and have fun,” explained Hjelmeseth. The mini supermarket will be filled with Chinese products curated by Hjelmeseth and Gao, including prepared grab-and-go items for breakfast, like porridge, and items to make meals for lunch and dinner, as well as items that can be used to assemble a few days worth of family meals. The offerings will be very vegetable forward, featuring local organic ingredients and sustainably raised meats, explained Hjelmeseth. Suá will also feature a coffee and tea bar with limited seating for customers who want to enjoy a moment in the shop, which was important to Hjelmeseth who said she wants customers to be able to enjoy eating in the shop.
“My passion has always been the joy in serving, bringing people together with food,” said Hjelmeseth.
Construction is underway in the space. Hjelmeseth has hired OWIU, an Asian architecture and design firm whose playful name is an abbreviation for The Only Way Is Up, because she wanted to support other Asian entrepreneurs. She told the Buzz her goal is to open in July but definitely by August!