Helping Chicago women add 2% more moisture into their lives with K Beauty
Insights from Leah Park, Choc Choc Cosmetic (Lake View East)
The story of Choc Choc Cosmetic began almost 8 years ago when owner Leah Park was a study abroad student in New York, living outside of Korea for the first time. Growing up, she’d always loved skincare. When she moved to the US for college, her American friends were fascinated by the Korean products she brought from home -- from the cute packaging to the natural ingredients like honey and snail mucus. Her mom sent more from Korea for Leah to share. But it wasn’t a business… yet.
Five years later, Leah was finishing up school in Chicago, and her student visa was close to its expiration date when she met her future husband. When she decided to stay in the United States, she also decided to open her own Korean Beauty (K Beauty) store, Choc Choc Cosmetic.
Unlike most K Beauty retailers in the Midwest, Choc Choc has a brick & mortar storefront. Leah explained, “I’m always afraid to buy something from Amazon or online stores, especially for skincare… you don’t know what will happen… you might not like the texture, you might not like the smell, when you do the spot test you might have a bad reaction… and it’s really hard to return because it takes two to three weeks from Korea.”
Leah understands that it’s difficult for American consumers to use K Beauty in a way that works with their existing skincare routine when their only option is browsing for unfamiliar products online. Over half of her customers have never heard of K Beauty when they stumble upon her storefront. So she uses Choc Choc to educate women who want to use K Beauty products and principles (such as the ten steps of K Beauty) and to help them implement it into their current routines.
“I really want to provide the product that each customer needs. When they say to me, ‘hey, I have 10 steps already, what should I do?’ then I’m not going to recommend any other products. I just tell them, you can just bring in the products you have right now. Let’s talk about it.”
If you haven’t tried K Beauty yet, you’re missing out on high-quality products made with all-natural ingredients, for drug store prices: “compared with American drugstore or high end brands, it’s way more gentle and hypoallergenic.”
Leah provides a wide variety of K Beauty products sourced directly from the Korean brands who manufacture them, never using middlemen in the transaction. She has close relationships with each of the brands, who normally don’t sell quantities fewer than 10,000 but are willing to sell just a few dozen to Choc Choc. Leah’s family even ships some of her products over directly from Korea if they happen upon a particularly enticing sale.
You could participate in the K Beauty craze by buying products from Sephora or other beauty brands capitalizing on the trend, but Leah has been using these products since she first understood what “choc choc” meant (“well-moisturized skin” in Korean). You will not find a woman in Chicago more knowledgeable about K Beauty or more willing to help you find the right products to address your unique skin care concerns. This is K Beauty as close to the source as you can get in a city over 6,000 miles away its roots.
“I like to see [my customers] fall in love with K Beauty… I’m so proud of myself and proud of Korean cosmetics.”