Vietnamese indoor market could replace huge former San Jose store site

SAN JOSE — A lively Vietnamese indoor market could sprout inside the shuttered former Sears store at East San Jose’s Eastridge Center shopping mall now that a real estate entrepreneur has bought the cavernous building.

Intelli, an affiliate headed up by Do Van Tron, a San Jose-based business and real estate executive, has bought the old Sears department store. Tron is planning to develop a new retail, restaurant and food complex in the space. It is not clear yet when the market might open.

“I plan to do an indoor market,” Tron said. “It would be like the indoor markets in Vietnam.”

One prominent example is the 110-year-old Ben Thanh Market, a huge indoor market in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon. That market was built in 1912 and is one of the oldest structures in Vietnam.

“Vietnamese people have good memories of these markets from our country,” Tron said.

The new owners paid 24.8 million for the property, which is at 2180 Eastridge Loop in San Jose, according to Tron.

“This is going to be very successful,” said David Taxin, a partner with Meacham/Oppenheimer, a commercial real estate firm. “This location is in an area that is a major center for the Vietnamese community.”

Nearly 125,000 people of Vietnamese ancestry live in San Jose, according to the 2019 American Community Survey.

Hello Ben Thanh Indoor Market is the name of the proposed complex at Eastridge Center, according to Tron.

Former Sears department store, parking lot and tire store property at Eastridge Center shopping mall in east San Jose, shown within the outline. Boundaries are approximate. (Google Maps)
Former Sears department store, parking lot and tire store property at Eastridge Center shopping mall in East San Jose, shown within the outline. Boundaries are approximate. 

The development would total 260,100 square feet, a project concept provided to this news organization shows.

The Vietnamese market would contain food courts, a banquet hall, an entertainment center, common areas, a children’s play center, free entertainment on weekends, and concerts that could be shown on social media.

“A large market and food hall are envisioned,” the development plans state. “Food halls are extremely popular due to being a one-stop location catering to varying customer tastes. One needs only look to a similar concept and popular chain of food halls named Eataly, which is a market and food hall based entirely on Italian cuisine.”

Multiple food courts would be featured in the new market, including 50 food booths whose sizes would range from 200 square feet to 400 square feet.

“Each booth will offer cuisine including Vietnamese specialties such as beef noodle soup, chicken noodle soup, vermicelli noodles, hot pot, vegetarian food, sticky rice, bread, spring rolls, salad roll, and tea from the most famous Vietnamese restaurants in California, out of state, and from Vietnam,” according to the development concept.

The anticipated range of cuisines will extend beyond Vietnam, the preliminary proposal indicated. Booths will sell traditional foods from China, Korea, Thailand, Singapore, and the Philippines, according to the development plans. “All tenants featured in the food hall must submit a cuisine sample before being selected as a vendor,” according to the plans.

The largest single category, measured by overall space, is slated to be devoted to merchandise and services, which would operate in 120,000 square feet.

Fresh vegetables and fruits that would be grown from Vietnamese farms, dry goods such as beef jerky and confections, traditional Vietnamese clothing, men’s and women’s clothing, watch and jewelry repair, traditional arts, goods, porcelain and stone statues, as well as a luxury car showroom would operate in the merchandise and services areas.

The new complex is expected to operate on both floors of the old Sears building. Some storage will be provided on the second floor.

To help increase foot traffic, the new Vietnamese market will connect directly to the main Eastridge Center complex, just as the former Sears store was linked.

“With the opening of the Hello Ben Thanh Indoor Market and Food Hall, the city of San Jose will receive a substantial amount of tax revenue, to be collected from the many vendors and businesses that will be operating from the market,” the development concept stated. “The market will also create many jobs.”

Scooty Nickerson contributed reporting. 

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