Namdaemun Korea

Because these citizens really know how to party.

Everyone knows that retail channels are blurring and as a result the convenience store is transforming—fine cuisine, high end boutiques, karaoke, video gaming—you can find all this and more at neighborhood C-stores around the world. You’ve read about them and seen them on the pages of this very blog.

So we started wondering—were there convenience stores that had incorporated neighborhood bars right into them? You know, that Cheers type of environment that you can duck in to grab a pint and where everybody knows your name?

We only asked ourselves this question because we stumbled across a couple of interesting blog/photo essays that showed an aspect of Korean social life, a pretty prominent one as it turns out, that centered around getting together and drinking at convenience stores.

There’s even a name for it—“marting”—and it’s actually become kind of an attraction for tourists. This great photo blog by Jo Turner, a photographer from New Zealand, captures the warm, casual atmosphere of having a couple of pops at the Lexy Mart in the city of IIsan, just north of Seoul.

Here’s another article with photos about the Korean phenomenon by a photographer named Daniel McBane. These are shot in Seoul and provide further evidence of the pervasiveness of the C-store as a legitimate hub of Korean night life.

Beer on TapSo we wondered how many convenience store watering holes we could find in the U.S. We didn’t count bars that were converted from gas stations—we know there’s a ton of those and perhaps someday we’ll go into it.

Turns out it doesn’t seem like the trend has caught on all that much. Here’s a short article that talks about the new trend of bars in grocery stores, and another one that does the same.

But in terms of finding actual convenience stores that had a sit down bar in them, it was slim pickings. Seems like the closest thing to a hotbed of activity for this type of thing in the U.S. is Austin, Texas.

So here’s an article that talks about five Austin area businesses that are re-inventing the “general store,” which in our language translates as C-store. East Austin’s Quickie Pickie has a section where you can sit down and have one of 24 beers on tap.

Even Whole Foods has started to get into the act. But they’re not really a convenience store.

So it appears that the cocktail bar is still some distance away from being as prominent as the food bar or even the sit down restaurant. That’s okay. At least we got to expose to you cool Korean C-store culture!