Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Carving a Far Eastern Niche Restaurateur Branches into Grocery Store for Ethnic Markets

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Carving a Far Eastern Niche Restaurateur Branches into Grocery Store for Ethnic Markets

Article excerpt

Vicky Hua speaks English, Vietnamese, four Chinese dialects and some French. She nonetheless complains that she is unable to speak to some of her customers at China Town Supermarket, which, at 18,000 square feet, is now the city's largest Asian grocer.

Unlike other import markets which sell primarily to a single ethnic population, Hua says her store is striving to serve a wide variety of ethnic groups, including Thai, Indian, Philippine, Korean, Japanese, as well as non-Asian customers. Nonetheless, explained Hua, about 85 percent of Oklahoma City's Asian population is Vietnamese, so that group forms the core of her clientele.

Hua estimates the total Oklahoma City area Asian population at 12,000 to 15,000. In addition to that number are a more transient population of international students at local universities including neighboring Oklahoma City University.

Hua herself is ethnically Chinese, although she grew up in Vietnam. Her family fled the country in 1979 when she was in high school and she has lived in Oklahoma ever since. For the past 18 years, she has owned and managed Peking Dragon Restaurant in Chickasha, together with her husband, Paul. They were married in 1980.

Because the Asian population in Chickasha is negligible, Hua says that running China Town since its June 24 opening has been a whole new experience for her since it's the first time she's served Asian customers.

"I've never worked with Asian customers in all my life," she said.

Hua and her husband manage the store's day-to-day affairs, but also have two co-owning partners -- one in Switzerland and one in Los Angeles. Larry Lee, the L.A. partner, is the company's president. Paul is the vice president.

Hua said the store has yet to spend a cent on advertising. That's because advertising is not as important as location. At Classen Boulevard and NW 27th Street, the store is located in the heart of the Asian community, she explained. In fact, city planners have defined a proposed Asian business district, which would be located between Classen Boulevard and Western Avenue and between 23rd and 30th streets.

In this prime location, customers in the key demographic group couldn't help but notice the store. …

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