Hareruya Pantry makes Lincoln Square shine

Carol Saffer

Hareruya Pantry (pronounced “Hallelujah” and Japanese for “sunny shop”) is a sun-dappled convenience store connecting Melbourne with specialty house-made Japanese gelato, pastries, bento, onigiri, sando and drinks.

Located on Lincoln Square, their customers crowd the store and wait patiently in long queues.

Hareruya Pantry is part of the TSUNAGU Project, a community of creative individuals with a passion for sharing stories through food and drinks.

TSUNAGU means “to connect” – the project wants to connect Melbourne people with Japanese culture.

Front of house manager Haruka Yamamoto said, “Our mission is to create an environment where people can come together and enjoy great company, delicious food, and tasty drinks.”

“We believe that when people come together and share in each other’s experiences, they form stronger connections that lead to more meaningful relationships,” she said.

“We are committed to creating an experience that will leave you feeling inspired, connected, and excited about the future.”

The experience combines a clean and crisp aesthetic featuring local design and craftwork.


Hareruya Pantry is a Melbourne-style convenience store known as “combini” in Japanese.


“In Japan, a combini is part of everyone’s life, you pop in and grab what you want, and this is what we try to encapsulate in Hareruya Pantry,” Ms Yamamoto said.

“We seem very popular for our gelato, but we also have bento boxes, rice bowls and Japanese sandwiches.”

Expanding the TSUNAGU Project is very slow, with one shop per year. Almost three years ago, the first store, 279, opened in West Melbourne.

It is known for its musubi, also known as onigiri, the Japanese equivalent of a classic Aussie sandwich. A rice triangle with a filling or topping wrapped up in a piece of nori (seaweed).

About a year later, North Melbourne’s La Bajo Milkbar opened featuring a strange mix of vintage Australian goods, delicious Japanese sandwiches, pastries and quality coffee and house-crafted items ranging from freshly-baked shokupan (Japanese milk bread) to seasonal jams and sodas.

In April 2022, Hareruya Pantry opened close to the university sector with a significant impact on the students and the vibrant energy in the square.

The benchmark of the TSUNAGU Project’s success at the three stores is one of the community responses, particularly face-to-face communication.

Ms Yamamoto said, “We are not very good at social media, but we are very good at getting feedback from our customers; we love a good chat.”

“It is authentic having a customer come back to the pantry and tell us, ‘I loved this last time’; this makes our day.”

The project believes there are so many different communities in Melbourne who love their surroundings and food that it shines in the inner city.

“It would be interesting to see what would happen if we opened a store in the ‘burbs’,” Ms Yamamoto said. “It would be completely different to the ethos here in the inner city.”

“Students, tourists and Carlton residents make up a large part of our customer base in our neighbourhood, and that’s where combinis are located.” •


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