Photos by Stacie Joy
Hi Noona, a Korean-American juice bar, debuted earlier this summer at 515 E. 12th St. between Avenue A and Avenue B.
Owner Stella Pak serves juices and smoothies with unique ingredients such as chamoe (Korean melon), a family favorite while growing up in Queens.
Pak, who comes from a family of restaurateurs, answered a few questions about her new business...Hi Noona is open Tuesday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a 9 a.m. start on Saturday and Sunday.
What were you doing before opening Hi Noona?
Here's Stella with her shop assistant Willow...
I grew up in a Korean BBQ restaurant in Queens, but most of my career has been in the beauty industry. When COVID-19 came around, I found myself helping my mom rebuild her noodle shop in K-Town. I ended up falling in love with it. I reconnected with my family, food and my Korean-American identity deeply this past year. Hi Noona is another lens for me to further explore that.
Tell us about Noona Noodles.
Noona Noodles is home. The kitchen and all its ingredients inspire Hi Noona. It's my mother's heart in the middle of K-Town. Our cooks have been with our family since we had a Korean BBQ restaurant in Queens for over 20 years. It's a space for my mother and brother to connect, share and learn from each other through food.
What is the origin of the Hi Noona name?
"Hi" is the opening of a new chapter and a casual introduction to who I am. "Noona" means older sister for a younger brother in Korean. My brother, Steve, is the true chef in the family, so it was a wink to him. "Noona" is the vibe of how I'd like to take care of my customers.
Why did you decide on the East Village for the shop?
The East Village is free-thinking and has always been open to new ideas and tastes. Daikon and red cabbage are staples in the Korean diet dense in nutrients and haven't been fully explored with juicing. It felt safe to share ideas here.
I'm in awe. Minnie, a ballet dancer, copywriter and chalkboard artist, came in and just offered to spruce up my sign. Erika and Tim hooked me up with a couple of chairs and a table for an outdoor seating moment. Kuki from the community garden is helping me with flowers. Eddy and her kids Annelynn and Phoenix are my biggest fans and critics of new menu items. Mary Kate, Ben, Lily and Bella are my regulars/unofficial board members. Jules and Gabby from Bassia Bassia touch up my hair, so I feel like a Goddess. Marissa is my marathon athlete ambassador. Randall from upstairs just knows how to reel them in. I mean… It takes a village to keep this going!