The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

Korean beauty store expanding, as K-Pop craze grows in Chicago

Jessica Goska
Choc Choc, owned by Leah Kim and managed by Ella Quijas, sits in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood on Friday, May 3, 2024. The store’s name means “well-moisturized skin” in Korean.

Korean beauty, or simply known as “K-beauty,” is a skincare concept originating in Korea that emphasizes hydrating and brightening the skin. As the “clean girl aesthetic” and natural makeup have become increasingly popular in the U.S., the trend made way for K-beauty brands to make headway. 

Choc Choc, a Korean beauty store, sits in the heart of the Lakeview East neighborhood.  Owner Leah Kim says the space is designed to break down the art of a personalized skincare routine. 

It seems that lately, everyone has been wanting to try K-beauty but don’t know how to get started,” Kim said. “I want people to be able to talk about their skin concerns with my staff and purchase the most effective products for them.”

Many of Choc Choc’s customers are neighborhood residents who’ve become repeat customers, Kim said.

“I realized how much my skin was benefiting from K-Beauty after I tried it,” shopper Bella McAlhaney said. “I found Choc Choc on TikTok when I moved here and decided to check them out.” 

Chicago has many small specialty stores, but Kim, who studied and curated the items she sells, said the layout and personal assistance make her store unique.

Shoppers visit the Choc Choc cosmetics store in Lakeview on Friday, May 3, 2024. Choc Choc sells Korean skincare products as well as accessories and other small items from Korea. (Jessica Goska)

Choc Choc’s store layout is broken into 10 sections, offering skincare products in the order that a customer could use them. 

“The ‘10-step’ process is known throughout Korean skincare lines,” Kim said. “I want to be able to navigate them through their routine and find where they may be struggling so we can recommend products that they may need.”

In addition to the rise in popularity of K-Pop music, Korean makeup brands have also found success in the United States. TikTok celebrity Alix Earle and actress Sydney Sweeney have, for instance, endorsed Korean brands such as Laneige and COSRX. 

Some Korean brands have become so popular that bigger beauty retailers now sell them, from lip masks to snail mucin serums, with the products often selling out.

“The product will be the same and the price will be similar,” Kim said, referencing the Laneige brand. “But we are listening to our customers, and if they are looking for a certain product, I may curate a product that Sephora doesn’t have.”

Leah Kim, owner of Choc Choc in Lakeview, poses with Choc Choc Rice Power Essence, a product she developed herself. The Choc Choc brand focuses on skin hydration, and Kim’s product is “jam-packed with skin loving ingredients.” (Jessica Goska)

Unique offerings include Kim’s very own “Rice Power Essence” serum. 

 “It was Leah’s first product in the store,” store manager Ella Quijas said. “She manufactured the product in Korea, and it’s cool to see how well it’s been selling here in the store.”

Choc Choc recently celebrated its eight-year anniversary, and with that, Kim announced the opening of a sister store on Broadway, a few blocks from the original location. The store, which opened May 11, is an extension of Choc Choc, Kim said and focuses on merchandise aimed at the rising popularity of Korean culture in the United States.

 “Expanding the business has been a very proud moment for me,” Kim said. “A lot of K-beauty fans also like K-pop. I see the relationship between the two.”

 Quijas, who’s worked at the store for almost four years, said Choc Choc is not only an interesting store but also a great place to work. 

 “The environment here is much more supportive,” Quijas said. “You feel very invited here.”

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