Interview with Matthew Loh, January 25, 2023

Dublin Core

Title

Interview with Matthew Loh, January 25, 2023

Subject

Asian Americans
Texas--History
Cooking, American
Cooking, Chinese

Date

2023-01-23

Format

audio

Identifier

2021oh002_di_021

Oral History Item Type Metadata

Interviewer

Betsy Brody

Interviewee

Matthew Loh

OHMS Object Text

5.4 Interview with Matthew Loh, January 25, 2023 2021oh002_di_021 01:22:59 ohdi Digging In di001 How Food, Culture, and Class Shaped Asian Dallas Becoming Texans, Becoming Americans This project is possible thanks to the support of a Mellon/ACLS Community College Faculty Fellowship. Asian Americans Texas--History Cooking, American Cooking, Chinese Matthew Loh Betsy Brody wav oh_audio_dig_Matthew_Loh_20220125.wav 1:|17(8)|26(9)|39(2)|53(4)|67(2)|79(3)|91(9)|102(9)|112(6)|124(3)|137(14)|150(6)|159(17)|169(1)|182(6)|190(11)|201(1)|209(9)|224(1)|238(2)|247(9)|257(9)|267(13)|276(9)|289(2)|301(7)|309(10)|319(6)|328(7)|344(14)|355(11)|365(10)|378(5)|388(4)|396(8)|409(8)|421(4)|432(4)|447(13)|459(12)|469(16)|480(6)|490(8)|503(4)|512(7)|521(15)|531(1)|539(8)|550(13)|562(14)|575(2)|587(1)|604(10)|614(5)|627(16)|637(12)|649(12)|662(8)|676(3)|688(1)|696(7)|705(10)|715(2)|728(9)|741(11)|751(1)|761(6)|771(2)|780(3)|787(3)|797(9)|806(2)|813(2)|821(2)|832(10)|841(17)|854(6)|865(8)|875(7)|893(9)|906(3)|916(8)|928(13) 0 https://betsybrody.aviaryplatform.com/embed/media/174079 Aviary audio 0 Introduction 33 Refugee experience/ Arriving in the US immigration ; Kansas ; Missouri ; refugee ; refugees ; San Francisco ; sponsor ; Texas ; Vietnam ; Wichita 225 Going to school in the United States bullying ; education ; school 315 Father's work in Kansas busboy ; family ; laundry ; restaurant ; social class ; work 409 Moving to Texas from Kansas/ Opening first Hong Kong Marketplace Arlington ; Asian culture ; Asian grocery ; business ; Hong Kong Marketplace ; Kansas ; Texas 591 Growing up working in the family business Asian grocery ; business ; grocery store ; Hong Kong Marketplace ; rice 667 Growth of Hong Kong Marketplace Arlington ; Asia Times Square ; Asian community ; Asian grocery ; business ; grocery store ; growth ; Hong Kong Marketplace ; property ; rent 844 Vision for Asian Times Square complex Asia Times Square ; Asian grocery ; grocery store ; growth ; Hong Kong Marketplace 1153 Asia Times Square shops and activities Asian community ; Asian grocery ; bridge ; business ; culture ; dance ; dim sum ; entertainment ; exotic fruits ; grocery store ; Hong Kong Marketplace ; hub ; Metro City Bank ; Pearl Restaurant ; restaurant ; seafood ; self checkout ; singing 1751 Food and promoting culture Asian American ; Asian community ; Asian food ; bridge ; culture ; food ; foodie ; Hong Kong Marketplace 1951 Changes in ability to source Asian products Asian grocery ; brand ; containers ; COVID ; freezer ; fruits ; grocery store ; Hong Kong Marketplace ; impor ; importing ; jasmine rice ; logistics ; pandemic ; rice ; seafood ; sourcing ; vegetables ; warehouse ; wholesalers 2113 Hong Kong Marketplace's relationship with DFW International Airport airport ; approved vendor ; business ; DFW International Airport ; Hong Kong Maketplace ; live seafood ; seafood ; SkyChef ; warehouse 2320 Asia Times Square as a hub for new immigrants from Asia acclimate ; Asia TImes Square ; Asian community ; assimilation ; culture ; Hong Kong Marketplace ; hub ; immigrants ; mom and pop ; senior citizens 2589 Building relationships with local government and leaders Asia Times Square ; business ; city council ; English ; Grand Prairie ; Hong Kong Maketplace ; language ; local government 2934 Asia TImes Square as a tourist destination Asian grocery ; culture ; Grand Prairie ; grocery store ; local government ; tourism ; tradition 3143 Lunar New Year at Asia Times Square Asia Times Square ; bridge ; celebrations ; diversity ; festivals ; fireworks ; hub ; Lunar New Year ; media ; red envelope ; tradition 3355 Growth of Asian community in Dallas Arlington ; Asian community ; business ; Grand Prairie ; growth 3492 Labor shortages and impact of COVID COVID ; essential business ; grocery store ; Hong Kng Marketplace ; labor ; pandemic 3874 Characterizing the business as a &quot ; mom and pop&quot ; growth ; Hong Kong Marketplace ; mom and pop ; property ; real estate 3995 Reflections on Anti-Asian rhetoric and violence American ; anti-Asian rhetoric ; Asian American ; Asian hate ; discrimination ; racism ; violence 4458 What it means to be American American ; American dream ; celebrations ; culture ; cutlure ; discrimination ; festivals ; identity ; philanthropy ; racism ; refugee 4743 Relationships with legislators Asian Business Council ; Congress ; flag ; Grand Prairie ; Grand Prairie Chamber of Commerce ; Library of Congress ; Texas Legislature “Digging In” explores how the growth of the Asian community coincided with the rise of “foodie culture” in Dallas, leading to unique opportunities for economic and social engagement between and among different Asian immigrant groups as well as with the larger Dallas community. |00:00:04| Brody This is Betsy Brody. Today is January 25th, 2023. I am interviewing for the first time Mr. Matthew Loh. This interview is taking place in my home office in Richardson, Texas. This interview is possible thanks to the support of a Mellon/ACLS Community College Faculty Fellowship and as part of the project entitled &quot ; Digging In: How Food, Culture and Class Shape the Story of Asian Dallas.&quot ; Thank you for joining me for this interview. |00:00:30| Loh Absolutely. It&#039 ; s an honor. |00:00:32| Brody Just to start out with, where and when were you born? |00:00:35| Loh I was born in 1972 in a small city. Well, pretty big city, actually, in Can Tho, South Vietnam. |00:00:44| Brody What brought you to Texas? |00:00:47| Loh Well, you know, my family&#039 ; s one of those refugee, boat people, so it was truly a two-year journey for us to be sponsored and to come to this great land of opportunity. And in 1979, we were, we won the lottery ticket, basically. We have a sponsor. Her name is Aunt Bonnie Minatra and Bill Minatra. They are my angels ; they sponsored my family. There was six of us and my parents. So it&#039 ; s eight. And we came to America, landed in September of 1979 in a small town called, I believe it&#039 ; s called New Mexico, Missouri. A very small town. I think we were probably the only second Asian family there. We didn&#039 ; t stay there long because we couldn&#039 ; t speak the language, couldn&#039 ; t work, couldn&#039 ; t get around too well. And so my dad was able to find a friend in San Francisco who said, &quot ; Hey, won&#039 ; t you come over here? And I can get you a busboy job?&quot ; And my dad decided to pack the whole entire family of eight of us. And we rode a bus to San Francisco. |00:02:07| Brody Do you remember that? What do you remember about that trip? |00:02:09| Loh Oh. You know, I think I don&#039 ; t remember much, to be honest with you. But I thought it was a fun ride. You know, as a child, not knowing what America is like or whatever, still adapting. Everything is just so new. And to get on a bus and just ride, I thought it&#039 ; s fun. But I&#039 ; m pretty sure looking back, and just to think how my dad and my mom felt, it probably was another huge challenge for them. First, to escape from Vietnam after the war and then to try to adapt into a new place. So to that bus ride was a long ride. I know that. And then we stayed in San Francisco for quite some time, but not that very long because the earthquake scared my mom to the point where she said, &quot ; We&#039 ; ve got to move.&quot ; And my dad found another friend who has a job for him in Wichita, Kansas. So we moved to Wichita, Kansas. Got on a bus again, went to, moved to Wichita, Kansas, and we stayed there. Of course, during this time we can&#039 ; t speak the language. I&#039 ; m still learning and adapting. And so we were living off of food stamps and welfare, government housing and whatnot. And then we stayed in Wichita for a good five years and then we got tired of the tornado. So we moved to Texas in 1985/1986. |00:03:45| Brody So were you in school in all those places? |00:03:48| Loh Yes, I was in school. |00:03:49| Brody And your siblings? |00:03:51| Loh Yes, my siblings were in school. I think my two oldest brothers never went to school here. Because they were old enough to kind of get a job and help out my parents and help out the family basically. So yeah, I owe a lot to my older two brothers. They sacrificed a lot just like my parents did to give me an opportunity for a decent education here in the US. |00:04:19| Brody Tell me about what you remember about both being in school, in the situation that you were in and moving around and starting new schools. |00:04:29| Loh Oh, man. It was tough. I&#039 ; ll be honest with you. You know, when you come from a very poor family with nothing, all the clothing we had was basically donated from the church, and most of the time it doesn&#039 ; t fit you, right. So, you know, you do get bullied a little bit here and there and get called names and whatnot. But luckily, I didn&#039 ; t understand English that well where I&#039 ; d, you know. But I think the hardship and some of those events that happened in my life made me the person who I am. So you&#039 ; ve just got to grow from there. |00:05:16| Brody You mentioned that your dad&#039 ; s friend set him up with a busboy position when you moved to California. What kind of work did he do in Kansas and then in Texas? |00:05:28| Loh Well, even in Kansas, it&#039 ; s anything he can get his hands on. I think when we were in Wichita, Kansas, he worked in a restaurant. He worked in a laundry and then doing some other side jobs. Basically, when you have a family of eight and you don&#039 ; t speak English well and you don&#039 ; t have the opportunity to make good money, you just need to continue to work. And my dad did that- worked in a restaurant, worked in laundry, ironing clothes and whatnot. Any side gig that he can get, he would do it, along with my two older brothers, just to have more food on a table. Obviously, we were living off of food stamps, so there was some government assistance, but that&#039 ; s not enough. And to be honest with you, my dad from Vietnam, he was a very successful businessman. He was pretty well off. We had butlers, we had maids and whatnot in Vietnam. But to lose all of that and come back here, he still has that sense of pride that he can overcome it. And he&#039 ; ll want to work hard to someday not rely on the government assistance anymore. He&#039 ; s just a very prideful man and I&#039 ; m very thankful for that. |00:06:47| Brody Yeah. Sounds like he was determined. Once you got to Texas, where did you settle and what happened? |00:06:56| Loh Yeah, it&#039 ; s a funny story, actually. The reason why we came to Texas. So we never thought about Texas, to be honest with you. But my dad had another friend here in Texas that he hasn&#039 ; t seen for quite some time. So he and my older brother drove from Wichita, Kansas to Texas to meet up with a friend. And it was during the wintertime. And, you know, in Asian culture, you go and visit somebody, you&#039 ; ve got to bring something. So once he got to Texas- in Arlington, Texas-, he tried to find an Asian grocery store. And so he was able to find one, off of the corner of New York Avenue and Arkansas. It was at most 2000 square foot. So he went in there and he just buys something and whatnot. Bought a gift and went to visit his friend. And then the next day they were going to try to head on back to Kansas- Wichita. And it was just, the weather was really bad. It&#039 ; s snowing. And so he decided to spend another night. So he went back to the grocery store and then he ended up talking to the owner, and the owner wanted to sell the business. You know, he wanted to sell the business. Now, at this time, we were, in Wichita, Kansas, working in a restaurant and whatnot. My dad was able to save enough money just to open a small Asian grocery, an Asian restaurant in Garden City. So, our family was kind of split up. Like I said, we were at a point where, &quot ; Let&#039 ; s do everything we can to be independent, right?&quot ; And so he visited an Asian grocery store. He never owned an Asian grocery store, but he is a businessman, right? He owned a bakery in Vietnam. And then we owned a small restaurant in Garden City, Kansas and so it intrigued him. And so he came on talking to the owner and they decided to...My dad decided to buy the grocery store phone from them with the sale of finance and whatnot, just to try it out. Again, very small business. But he found it fascinating that we can eat the food that we like, carry the food we like, and try to carry more and more Asian products. And so he just decided to go ahead and take a chance, take a huge risk, and then opening up our very first grocery store. It was called Hong Kong Marketplace. In 1986. And so that&#039 ; s when my entire family moved over to Texas, to Arlington, Texas. |00:09:49| Brody It&#039 ; s a great story. Did most of you work in the family business? |00:09:54| Loh Absolutely, all of us did. |00:09:56| Brody Tell me about what you did, what that was like. |00:09:58| Loh So, you know, unlike other kids my age at that time who go to junior high school and then high school and then probably play sports and go out with friends and whatnot, what I do is, after school, I walk back to the apartment behind the grocery store, put up my stuff. Then I&#039 ; ll walk to the grocery store and help out. I would carry rice bags, say hi to customers, help sack, help carry the grocery bag out, put it in the car. And so, it was, it&#039 ; s...we weren&#039 ; t at a point where we could hire many help and so a lot of the profit come from our own labor and that&#039 ; s how we grew from there. We&#039 ; ve just been extremely blessed, very fortunate, took advantage of all the opportunities that this great nation provided to us, and just continued to work hard and grew and grew and grew until we&#039 ; re here now because of that. |00:11:06| Brody Tell me about the growth. Where, from that one store, where is the business now? |00:11:12| Loh So, from a 2000 square foot grocery store, we continue...With again, it&#039 ; s just with the growth of the Asian population in the Arlington area, Dallas, Fort Worth area, our business grew. And so from that one grocery store, 2000, then we expanded. We bought and rented another location, leased another location that was twice the size. And throughout the whole process, we somehow, we were, all our business has always remained along...between Arkansas and Pioneer Parkway. So the first store was at New York and Arkansas. Then the second store was at Center and Pioneer/Arkansas. And then we moved from there to the one back on New York and Pioneer. I think that one used to be an old Home Depot. It was a huge- that was a huge step for us because we went from a 2000 grocery store to move over there. It ended up being, I believe, 30 some thousand square foot grocery store. So it did continue to grow. Now, when we actually moved to the location in Pioneer and New York, we actually co-owned the property. It&#039 ; s the very first time that we actually moved into real estate. And so we owned. We had a partner with a bank, and we owned that. And then business continued to prosper and grow. And so we decided to buy another building in Dallas for Walnut and Audelia. And that is the...That&#039 ; s a 40,000 square foot grocery store. And so we were operating two grocery stores for quite some time. And then a huge opportunity presented itself again when Walmart and Sam&#039 ; s Club in Grand Prairie went dark. And they went dark, I forgot what year was, but we had an opportunity to buy the Walmart building first and we bought that, I believe, in 2005, and then we bought the adjacent building, which was the Sam&#039 ; s Club building in 2013. But the very first business...so we shut down in 2008, we shut down our operation in Arlington to move over to the Grand Prairie location, and we opened that in 2008. And then in 2014 is when we developed the other building next to it, Asia Times Square. And so the entire area is called Asia Times Square. |00:14:04| Brody Yeah. Tell me about your vision for that. I mean, it&#039 ; s a big step to go from a 2000 square foot small grocery store to sort of running multiple stores and then a complex. So what were the goals and what were some of the concerns that you that you had at the time? |00:14:26| Loh So just to let you know, at first, I wasn&#039 ; t really a huge part of my family business. You know, I went to school, went to UTA to get my engineering degree. And then when my dad wanted to continue to expand the business and he asked me, I think I shared with you, to join the family business. I said, &quot ; I&#039 ; ll do so if you make me the highest paid cashier in the history of America.&quot ; And he did so. So I quit my engineering career in 1999, and I started helping out the family business. And so once I continued to help out the family business, I started to see what were, what the potentials were. And so when we decided to buy that building from Walmart, we looked at the entire area surrounding that area and see what the potential was going to be. And so we saw the vacant Sam&#039 ; |s Club next to it as well. And it was always in our heart to acquire that. Unfortunately, at that time we couldn&#039 ; t because, the way Walmart operates, they&#039 ; re just a giant. It&#039 ; s just a little bit difficult to acquire a building because it was in a trust, part of a trust that included twenty other Sam&#039 ; s Clubs. So we bought, we went ahead and said, &quot ; Let&#039 ; s just convert this Walmart into what we believe will be the best property, the best destination to provide our Asian community everything that they would want.&quot ; And so we took that building. Walmart was 120,000 or 130,000 square foot. I keep forgetting which one is bigger Walmart or Sam&#039 ; s Club. But we took that, and we converted it, and we moved Hong Kong Marketplace into that building and let Hong Kong Marketplace be the anchor. And then we start building everything out and start leasing it, bringing new tenants in. So before we did all of that, we really had to decide what our vision is going to be, what the master plan is going to be. And I want to reiterate that, America is such a great nation that provides people abundance of opportunity. I think as long as you are determined to work hard, you can succeed in America. And that&#039 ; s the beauty of America. But, you know, she has her own problems as well. But we just continued to grow. And we thought about calling it Hong Kong Market Mall. We thought about calling something like that. But, our vision, our plan was bigger than that, I think because we were sponsored by angels, our Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Bill, we wanted to do something that&#039 ; s bigger than a business. We wanted to be able to give back. And we want to bring people together. And so we didn&#039 ; t want to call it &quot ; Hong Kong Mall&quot ; or any specific country. And so we decided to call it &quot ; Asia Times Square.&quot ; We wanted to acquire, and we did acquire about sixty acres of land, and we wanted to make that Asia Times Square. We didn&#039 ; t want to do anything else because we are such proud Asian Americans, and we wanted to create something that the Asian community can be proud of. And not only that, I wanted to create something where other ethnic groups want to experience Asia, they can come visit us. |00:18:25| Brody How did you come up with the &quot ; Times Square&quot ; name? |00:18:28| Loh I think because New York has a &quot ; Times Square&quot ; there, that had a huge part of it. And I just like how people gather there and celebrate. And I said &quot ; Huh, let&#039 ; s call it &#039 ; Asia Times Square.&#039 ; &quot ; So we were actually...We were thinking about calling it &quot ; Asian American Mall&quot ; , but I didn&#039 ; t want that either. And I didn&#039 ; t want to call it &quot ; Asian Times Square&quot ; because I feel like if we call it &quot ; Asian Times Square,&quot ; we felt like it&#039 ; s...the area was specific just for Asians and we don&#039 ; t want that. We are very inclusive. We want to promote our culture. We welcome everybody to come in. So that&#039 ; s why we took the &quot ; n&quot ; out and just called it &quot ; Asia Times Square.&quot ; |00:19:12| Brody So tell me about...Walk me through Asia Times Square. What is it like? What would I find if I went there and what are the types of things that people do while they&#039 ; re there? |00:19:27| Loh Sure. First and foremost is Hong Kong Marketplace. We&#039 ; ve been in business for 36 years now. And we wouldn&#039 ; t be who we are, where we are, what we can become without the love and support of our Asian community and the community in general, to be honest with you. We carry products from all over, from the Far East. We always carry, you know, we carry products that you can&#039 ; t find our local Kroger&#039 ; s and Walmart and whatnot. And we specialize in seafood, fresh seafood. Live seafood. Vegetables. Exotic fruits. I&#039 ; ve been on numerous mainstream TV stations- NBC, ABC, Channel 11, Fox, CW. We&#039 ; ve just been invited luckily, you know, we&#039 ; ve been invited just to talk about the exotic fruits and vegetables that we eat. And that&#039 ; s just the beauty of it. I think, living is about experiencing and trying different things. And, you know, one of the fastest growing clientele for us are non-Asian, and I&#039 ; m super proud of that. So the grocery store is a big part of Asia Times Square. It occupies 40,000 square feet, carries products from all over the world. And it&#039 ; s just continued to grow and continued to grow. I think we are the first Asian grocery store in DFW, maybe in Texas, that has a self-checkout. So, you know, with an engineering background, I&#039 ; m always wanting to improve a process. And most Asians are probably a little bit worried and scared of moving to that self-checkout technology. But I feel like we&#039 ; re at a point where we have to make constant improvement. And so, you know, I think going back to 1999 when I decided to quit my engineering career to help out the family grocery store, I think we were the first one to go with an automated cash register system with PLUs and be PCI compliance and whatnot. Because in the past, it&#039 ; s always &quot ; Okay, this product is 99 cents, punch in &#039 ; 99&#039 ; .&quot ; That&#039 ; s it. There&#039 ; s no description whatsoever. But we upgraded and went with a full POS system. And so we constantly tried to make changes. You know, we have to. Where we can be proud Asian American, but we have to move along with technology. So that&#039 ; s that. And then, we have a great relationship with banks. One of our banks that were a huge part of our growth was City Bank, C-I-T-Y. They were our major vendor. And so when we bought that building, they were the lender, and they were also our tenant. So that was a great relationship. Unfortunately, right now, they&#039 ; ve sold that branch to another bank. And we love Metro City Bank. They came in very supportive, and we love what they do as well. But just knowing a grocery store is not enough. We truly want to be a destination, really a place for Asians of all backgrounds and even non-Asians. I just want to create an environment where people can just come enjoy themselves and be a one stop shop. So we want to make sure we have a good food court selection. We have a hair salon. We have a jewelry store. We have money transfer, shipping, a variety of services there. You know, income tax, buying insurance, it&#039 ; s all there. But we knew that that building would not be enough. So as soon as the Sam&#039 ; s Club became available.... And it took six years because it&#039 ; s just there&#039 ; s a lot of legal stuff that Sam&#039 ; s Club had to do and whatnot. And they knew the broker knows that we want that building. So as soon as they got that resolved, they contacted me and I believe it was within 45 days, we took ownership of it. It was a quick- there was not much negotiation. They gave me a price that I thought was fair and we took over. And so we own that building. Once we owned that building, we acquired more land to the west. So our Asia Times Square will be in both city of Grand Prairie and city of Arlington because the land that we own to the west is actually in city of Arlington. And we&#039 ; ll look at developing that probably in the next couple of years. |00:24:23| Brody That&#039 ; s great. So what is a typical weekend like at Asia Times Square? |00:24:28| Loh Oh, man. Typical weekend is crowded. It&#039 ; s getting crowded. And I think us being able to understand and trying to stay true to our mission and our vision statement. Our mission is &quot ; Preserving Tradition and Promoting Culture.&quot ; It took me a couple of years to come up with that mission, but I think that&#039 ; s very, very important to us. I think we are definitely staying true to that because we host so many cultural events. My dad, when we, you know, he misses home, he misses home, and he missed the way we celebrate it, the way he celebrated the Lunar New Year and the Mid-Autumn back home. And so we make it a point where we will host those kinds of events at Asia Times Square. And in order to host an event like that, we need a lot of space. So that&#039 ; s why it was important when we see all this vision, all this master plan, we don&#039 ; t know how it&#039 ; s going to turn out, to be honest with you. We don&#039 ; t know. But we dream big. We dream big. And this what I want, this is what I want. So we have all...I always write down what I foresee, what my big dream is, what my big goal is going to be. Whether I make it there or not, you know, I don&#039 ; t know. It&#039 ; s yet to be seen. I have huge goals. But we&#039 ; re working towards that. But on a weekend, there&#039 ; s a line at the Pearl Restaurant. That Pearl Restaurant is probably one of my favorite dim sum places. They&#039 ; re always packed on weekends. The grocery store is busy, but we have so many different cuisines there that people will love to try. We&#039 ; ve got Korean, Japanese, Thai, Lao, Filipino, Vietnamese, of course, Mongolian. Just an array of Asian cuisine that you can try. And then, you know, we have a huge ballroom that hosts weddings and nonprofit fundraisers and whatnot. So it&#039 ; s always busy. But when it comes to an event and some traditional holidays, it really gets packed. And what brings me a lot of joy, honestly, Betsy, is that when we host an event it&#039 ; s not just the Asians that come out. It&#039 ; s truly people from all walks of life, every ethnicity you can think of are out there celebrating with us. And I think our vision of becoming the destination, connecting cultures and community, it&#039 ; s working. It&#039 ; s working. And, you know, one of our purposes for Asia Times Square, again, I keep on telling you that, you know, we have a business to run. I&#039 ; m the CEO and I have a business to run. I look at financial, I look at the numbers quite a bit. But at the end of the day, we&#039 ; re much more than a business. Our purpose is actually to replace ignorance with acceptance. And, you know, to achieve that, we&#039 ; re going to require a lot of support from everyone, from city government, from our customers, from people who are not- have not experienced what Asia is like, we want them here. We want them to come here and experience and to see that we are so much more alike than not alike. We all, as human beings, we love family, we love our families and friends, we love food, and we love to laugh and sing and dance. I mean, that&#039 ; s what life is all about. And to try new things. And so, I shared this with my daughter the other day, I mean, a month, a few years ago, actually, when I told you that we want to replace ignorance with acceptance. Before I had my conversation with my daughter, to be honest with you, my statement was &quot ; to replace ignorance with tolerance.&quot ; And I thought that was pretty good until I sat down to chat with my daughter, and she said, &quot ; Dad, why even tolerance? Why don&#039 ; t we take a further step and just go directly to acceptance?&quot ; And I thought that was brilliant. And so I&#039 ; ve been using that a lot. So it&#039 ; s credit to my daughter. |00:29:07| Brody That&#039 ; s great. |00:29:08| Loh Yeah. |00:29:10| Brody Smart daughter. What role, you mentioned, that we all love food. What role do you think food plays in your mission of promoting culture? |00:29:21| Loh A huge part. A huge, huge part. I&#039 ; m a foodie. I&#039 ; ll be honest. Oh, let me share with you. I&#039 ; m Chinese, born in Vietnam, married to a Korean, so I love food from every place. I&#039 ; m just a very proud Asian American. And food. I&#039 ; m telling you ; I have been asked to be on so many mainstream media to talk about food and talk about. I remember there was this one episode they were talking about eating black, green, or dark color veggie, and why do you do that? And that it&#039 ; s healthier, eating those colors. And so they would come and talk to us about it. I did a show with them, and then more and more non-Asians are shopping at our store. And that&#039 ; s what actually, that was our tagline for Hong Kong Marketplace...it&#039 ; s &quot ; Don&#039 ; t just shop, have an experience.&quot ; Because truly when you come in there and see products that you&#039 ; ve never seen before and tried before. And then if I&#039 ; m there, if anyone asks me or any of our staff, we try to explain to them why we eat certain things. Right? And the clientele, the increase in in clients from the non-Asian community is just phenomenal. So I strongly believe that food is such an important part. A lot of people eat to live. I live to eat. And so when it comes to food, I can talk on and on and on and on. |00:30:59| Brody What are your biggest sellers? |00:31:01| Loh Well, oh, I think our seafood department is second to none. And then, of course, our vegetable and fruits. You know, back then, even in 1986, I remember there&#039 ; s certain foods that we love so much, but it&#039 ; s so hard to get. Extremely hard to get. And even back then, in 1986, or in the early nineties, to get this fruit called durian or jackfruit. I mean, it was like fifty bucks. Back then it&#039 ; s a lot of money. But now, we&#039 ; re able to bring in those fruits by containers and Florida can grow some of them to longans and even Mexico can grow some of them. And for us to bring all that fruits and vegetables in at a much lower price, it just makes it so much easier for people to have access. And again, the growth. The growth not just in the Asian population alone, but just the growth of being a foodie, a growth of non-Asians wanting to try Asian food and products has grown so much. And that&#039 ; s the beauty of America. There is the beauty. And then there&#039 ; s also a dark side of America. But I think we are moving forward. We&#039 ; re making huge progress to how I experience my childhood to now. |00:32:32| Brody That&#039 ; s really interesting about the changes in your ability to source some of those quote unquote exotic vegetables or fruits. Can you walk me through the nuts and bolts of what that&#039 ; s like now of keeping a huge store supplied with all of these things from all over the world? |00:32:52| Loh Yes. So I think there&#039 ; s a lot more wholesalers out there that are importing stuff to make our retailer, our grocery store life easier. But there are still products that we import ourselves just by the sheer volume. One product is Jasmine Rice. Hong Kong Marketplace, we bring in anywhere between, I don&#039 ; t know...I don&#039 ; t know how many tons of, million pounds of rice we bring in. So actually we have an agreement with a farm in Thailand that we would go there and specifically pick out their grain of rice, the type of rice that we want to import with our own label, without own label. So we bring in containers, I don&#039 ; t know, 30, 40 containers are huge. Millions of pounds of rice. So that, you know, when the logistics is actually a... especially during the COVID pandemic, it was a nightmare. It was a nightmare. We weren&#039 ; t able to bring in our product soon enough. It&#039 ; s just because of the logistics. Containers of rice. Back then to bring in a container might cost 5000 or whatever. Shipping fees or not. But during the pandemic, you&#039 ; ll be lucky if you can outbid your competitors and pay up to 15, 20,000 a container just to bring in a load of rice. But, that is huge. Our seafood department is huge. We import a lot of frozen tilapia from Taiwan, Thailand, China, Vietnam, just all over. Our seafood department is like I said, we have a huge...We are lucky enough to have a huge warehouse, a pretty decent freezer, a really big freezer so we can bring in loads at a time, containers at a time and just store it there. Having a warehouse helps a lot. |00:35:11| Brody Sure. A lot of people that I&#039 ; ve interviewed have brought up the role that the airport plays in running their business and being able to source fresh food. Is there much of a relationship between your business and sort of the fact that the DFW airport exists? |00:35:29| Loh Yes, I love the airport. I tell you, there&#039 ; s two reasons why I love the airport so much. Number one, we get our live seafood from the airport. We get our live lobsters, our live Alaskan crab, shrimp or whatever from the airport. So our staff will drive there on a weekly basis to pick up the shipment. That&#039 ; s number one. Number two, I&#039 ; m not sure you&#039 ; re aware of this, but Hong Kong Marketplace is one of the very few approved vendors on the Sky Chef list. So, Sky Chef is one of our big clients, and we deliver to them on a weekly basis. So if you&#039 ; re flying internationally, the chances are, when you&#039 ; re drinking a cup of tea, a cup of instant noodle or some Asian ingredients, it&#039 ; s probably coming from Hong Kong Marketplace. |00:36:34| Brody That&#039 ; s so interesting. How did that relationship develop? |00:36:38| Loh You know, so it was a long process, to be honest with you. To be on their approved vendors list, you have to go through a process. You have to get audited by third party. They have to come and interview us and whatnot. We again, we were...They reached out to us. One day I received a phone call and they said who they were, and they asked if we carry this kind of product. And I said, &quot ; Yes, we do.&quot ; And they said, &quot ; Well, we would like to order this on a regular basis, but you need to be on an approved vendors list. And these are all the requirements you need to meet. Can you do that?&quot ; And, you know, I&#039 ; m pretty sure a lot of people probably would have said no because it was quite lengthy. And to be on that list, it&#039 ; s not just the energies and the labor and effort that you need to put in, it&#039 ; s also the capital, right? You had to really be willing to spend money to be in compliance and meet their requirements. And I thought that was a must for us. I think that was one way for us to continue to improve how we operate. And I met with my brothers. Some thought it was just too much, that it wouldn&#039 ; t be profitable, and I was... I keep on telling them it&#039 ; s not just about profitability and why I think we need to get to a point where we can grow and be a reputable company, that we can meet their standard. You know, not very many people can be on this list. Let&#039 ; s separate ourselves from the others. So I went ahead and did that. And it was almost a year&#039 ; s process, a one-year process to get on that list. And we&#039 ; ve been serving them, delivering to them for the last, I don&#039 ; t know, five or six years. |00:38:29| Brody That&#039 ; s really interesting. And you&#039 ; re right, I had no idea. |00:38:32| Loh Not very many people know that. That&#039 ; s why we have a pretty decent sized warehouse is so that we make sure we always have the product they need. |00:38:41| Brody Earlier you mentioned many of the businesses that are in Asia Times Square, the insurance, the jewelry store, hair salon and so on. A lot of, especially in California, centers that are built around an Asian grocery store serve a dual purpose of providing the actual supplies for people to cook and eat, but also, a sort of safe place for people who are new to the country to sort of acclimate and have less of a barrier in terms of language or comfort. Do you feel that some of those businesses in Asia Time Square, have served that purpose- to help people ease in? |00:39:24| Loh Absolutely. Yeah. I wish when we came to America, we had Asia Times Square where we stayed. It would have been, it would have made life a lot easier. You know, even our tenants right now, most of them are &quot ; mom and pops.&quot ; Absolutely, we have some of those franchise businesses, but we also want to work with &quot ; mom and pop&quot ; who want to start our own business. And I do go out of my way to try to assist them, to let them know that the way we operate in America is much different than in back home. And so, but even when we had those kinds of businesses and then we have immigrants from China or Vietnam who just came over to America, for them to be able to come to Asia Times Square and feel like home, it helps them so much. I know it would have helped me tremendously. And there&#039 ; s actually...I&#039 ; m glad you asked me that because there is a future project that we&#039 ; re working on and it&#039 ; s going to be very dear to me, and it&#039 ; s to create a senior housing for the Asian community. A lot of our, you know, being second generation and third generation, we&#039 ; re more adept or willing to have our mom and pop at an age where, you know, they can go live at a senior housing. Before and even still now I&#039 ; m pretty sure all a lot of Asian families will have their parents live with them, with the eldest child, but slowly there more and more willingness to change. But there&#039 ; s no place for them. There&#039 ; s no place for the seniors and our parents to live because, you know, they love to eat what they like to eat, listen to music they won&#039 ; t listen to and eat the food, you know, and play games that they&#039 ; re accustomed to. But there&#039 ; s no place out there that allows them to do that with comfort. If they do that, they feel a little uneasy. And so that&#039 ; s going to be a very dear project for me, is to build a residential, not specifically for Asian, but it&#039 ; s going to cater towards the Asian. We want to be inclusive. I love seeing non-Asians coming and enjoying Asian&#039 ; s festivities, the food and whatnot. So I want to build something like that that the seniors can live there, walk to the grocery store. We want to build a park, an Asian-themed park with trails to Bangkok or trails to Saigon, trails to Seoul, you know, all the different countries and just have a very nice park for the seniors to walk and keep them constantly moving. I think one of the biggest differences between Asia, I mean, between America, seniors in America versus seniors in overseas is the health. I think because we have no choice. Everywhere we want to go, we have to drive here, we drive, drive, drive, whereas in Asia, we walk, walk, walk. And walking is such a great exercise for the senior. Even for me, actually, I would wake up early when my wife makes me and I&#039 ; m always thankful that she makes me do it. We would walk around our neighborhood and just that one hour walk makes a big difference in our lives. So I want to create something like that for our Asian seniors here. |00:43:00| Brody That&#039 ; s really beautiful and really fits in with the larger mission that that you have. I hope it works out. I have a couple of questions about just sort of when you were developing. Did you have any pushback about signage, about traffic, about anything like that as you grew and developed, especially Asia Times Square? |00:43:27| Loh Yes. So, you know, I&#039 ; m lucky enough that, in my family, I&#039 ; m the youngest of six. And so, there&#039 ; s three of us that got a higher education. My third brother, John, Melody is an accountant. And I am, I got a degree in mechanical engineering. So we read and write in English pretty well. And so I understand the process, but I also am very thankful to have been able to witness my dad&#039 ; s courage and his sheer determination to succeed. And the thing I mentioned to you earlier, that getting a good education is extremely important, it&#039 ; s the foundation. But what I learned from my dad is it&#039 ; s much, so much more. Because my dad was not an educated man. The reason I say he&#039 ; s not an educated man is because due to war and whatnot, he had to give up. He didn&#039 ; t go to...He quit school the age of 13 to take care of families and whatnot. But he&#039 ; s the most intelligent man I know. But here in America, just for me to be able to witness...he&#039 ; s not a man of many words, but a man of action. So what I learned from him, and this is something I share with a lot of students that I talk to now, I say, &quot ; You learn your ABCs, you get your A&#039 ; s, your B&#039 ; s in school, and try to get as many A&#039 ; s as possible. But it&#039 ; s truly about the five D&#039 ; s that I&#039 ; m going to tell you that will make you succeed in life and succeed in your career.&quot ; And what I learned from him, he didn&#039 ; t say this particularly, but just good action and just witnessing everything that he went through is the first D is desire. And then you follow up with determination, dedication, devotion. And the last one is discipline. Now, if you can achieve and exercise those five D&#039 ; s along with a good education, you will succeed in life. And so with all that, I knew that in order for us to execute on our master plan, I knew I had to work with the city government. I knew I have to get in touch with them and make sure they know what we&#039 ; re trying to do and for me to seek help from them. I believe in partnership. I believe in collaboration. I think there&#039 ; s so much we can do together. Once we are able to partner up and collaborate. And so I was the one who just reached out to the city of Grand Prairie. I remember vividly going to one of the meetings, and I was very nervous, extremely nervous. I mean, it didn&#039 ; t matter if I had an engineering degree or whatnot. It&#039 ; s kind of hard to prepare yourself to go in there and talk in front of the mayors and all the councilman and whatnot. And I&#039 ; m Asian, too. I&#039 ; m walking there and I believe it&#039 ; s all white gentlemen. And there was- except for one lady, Ruthie Jackson. And I told them what I plan on doing, what my family&#039 ; s planning on doing. And we would like to work with the city and get some help. And believe it or not, we were able to get an abatement from the city of Grand Prairie to develop that part of property. And they were very happy. They were very welcoming. And, you know, it just... the partnership between myself and the city of Grand Prairie has been phenomenal, and they have been very welcoming. But in every relationship, people ask me...In every relationship it takes two. If you want them to accept you, you have to accept them. You have to welcome them. And just because I opened the door, if the other party doesn&#039 ; t walk in, it won&#039 ; t work. And so it&#039 ; s a relationship that we have to continue to work on. There are things that I believe the city of Grand Prairie can do better, and there are things that I know that I can do better, but we&#039 ; re working together to get there. And I think the mayor of the city of Grand Prairie, Mayor Ron Jensen has been phenomenal. I think his love for people, of all people, helps with what we&#039 ; re trying to do at Asia Times Square. And that&#039 ; s why when they know what I&#039 ; m trying to do with my business...Yeah, at the end of the day, it&#039 ; s a business. I want to be profitable, but we want to do more than just that. And so, whenever we host an event, other dignitaries come to support us and just working together to make our community much better. |00:48:54| Brody I noticed that Asia Times Square is listed as a, you know, a tourist attraction in the city of Grand Prairie&#039 ; s website. How, what are some other ways that that partnership has surprised you? |00:49:09| Loh Oh, yes. As you know, for the tourism department and I want to give a shout out to Sarah Dedeluk. She&#039 ; s with the tourism department and, the city manager, Tom Hart, he retired. And so the new city manager is Steve Dye. He&#039 ; s a good friend of mine. We became friends when he was the Grand Prairie police chief. And our relationship just continued to develop. It&#039 ; s just so much easier when your vision and your purpose are in line. And you know, Sarah, she has brought so many different tourism departments from different cities and county to come visit Asia Times Square. And I would give them a tour. And every time I give them a tour, I would always get back an email from El Paso or whomever saying, &quot ; Oh, that was one of my favorite sites to visit because there&#039 ; s so much there.&quot ; There is truly a lot at Asia Times Square that you can check out. I&#039 ; ll give you, for instance, why we called it &quot ; Asia Times Square&quot ; you already know. And then I kind of mentioned to you, my mission is &quot ; Preserving Tradition, Promoting Culture.&quot ; But if you take a step back before you even enter Asia Times Square, just step back and take a look at the two buildings side by side, you will notice which building is preserving tradition and which building is promoting culture, because preserving tradition is the building with the Hong Kong Marketplace, the grocery store and everything in that grocery store is more authentic, more traditional, and even to the design of the building has a traditional Asian look. And then you look on the other side is promoting culture. That design is more modern. It has an Asian flair, but it&#039 ; s more modern. And that building has the ballroom that we host so many cultural events, that we&#039 ; re promoting culture. So there&#039 ; s a lot. In addition, I keep on telling you that I love preserving tradition and one of the things- why we host so many events at Asia Times Square- it&#039 ; s not just for the mainstream, it&#039 ; s not just for the non-Asian to understand why we celebrate what we celebrate, but also to continue that tradition for the next generation. Because the American born Asians are slowly losing their roots, and we don&#039 ; t want to do that. We&#039 ; ve got to make sure they understand where they come from, who they are. So when you look at the two buildings, one building is actually higher than the other building. So the &quot ; Preserving Tradition&quot ; building, which is the Hong Kong Marketplace building, is actually lower than the &quot ; Promoting Culture&quot ; which is for the younger generation. So it&#039 ; s like the root is always at the bottom and a branch, the flowers all that is going on top. So when you look at our building, not many people know that, but we specifically design it such that there is a roof that connects one building to another building and there&#039 ; s an incline rising up as well. |00:52:19| Brody That&#039 ; s really thoughtful. |00:52:21| Loh Yeah. Thank you. |00:52:23| Brody On that note, we&#039 ; re in the midst right now of Lunar New Year season. Tell me about how Asia Times Square celebrates Lunar New Year. |00:52:32| Loh We celebrate. I hope we&#039 ; re at a point where people understand that if you want to celebrate Lunar New Year or to come to this Lunar New Year celebration, you have to come to Asia Times Square, because we really put a lot of time and effort into it. This is a... we just finished our 16th year hosting the event and it just seems like it&#039 ; s getting bigger. And I&#039 ; m proud to say that this past two, three weekends has been the most well attended celebration. We&#039 ; ve seen so many non-Asians visiting our facility to celebrate, and for me to see them go into a Vietnamese gift shop or Lao or Cambodian gift shop and buy those traditional Vietnamese outfits. And we&#039 ; re talking about a White guy and a Black lady going there, buying those outfits, and try it on and celebrate with us. That is such a beautiful sight for me. And then the other thing is for me to see the seniors, the grandma and grandpa smiling and laughing because they&#039 ; re reliving that precious moment that they celebrate back home. And then also to see the younger kids just having fun, doing firecrackers and whatnot. It is truly my favorite time of the year. We&#039 ; ve just been so blessed to have so much love and support from our community. You know, like Channel 8, always have me on Good Morning Texas always have me on, Daybreak. Fox Four News came out and did a show about how we celebrate it. And then just for me to be able to explain to the mainstream what is the red envelope for? What is the significance of firecracker dance and lion dancing? It&#039 ; s just beautiful that people are more accepting our culture and our traditions. |00:54:33| Brody So you mentioned firecrackers and lion dance. What other, including those, what things do you have that go on that people come and watch? |00:54:42| Loh We bring in a lot of entertainers. That&#039 ; s a must. We have to bring in a lot of entertainers. We love to sing and dance. And we always try to bring the artists that our Vietnamese community love to listen to, grew up with. So we bring them too. And we invite many, many different cultural performances. Again, we&#039 ; re preserving tradition, promoting culture. So when it&#039 ; s Lunar New Year, we don&#039 ; t just have Vietnamese dancers or Dragon dance, we have African, Nigerian dance team come in, and we&#039 ; ve got K-Pop coming in, we&#039 ; ve got the mariachi band come and sing and dance with us. Just anyone who wants to come and share their culture with us. Come on, come, and share with us. Because that&#039 ; s what we&#039 ; re about. We want to celebrate unity. We want to celebrate diversity. So the more the merrier. We have a list where anyone who wants to come and perform, they want to showcase their talent, to showcase their culture, we&#039 ; re more than happy to bring them on the stage and showcase them. |00:55:53| Brody That&#039 ; s great. Moving in a slightly different direction, when you got to Texas and you got to Dallas or Arlington, what was the nature or size of the Asian community and how would you characterize the growth to now? |00:56:14| Loh Wow. It was small. It was definitely small. I can tell you that in Arlington, it&#039 ; s still a higher Asian population than in city of Grand Prairie. But when we decided to move to Grand Prairie and open a business there, there were less than five Asian businesses there. And the Asian population in the city of Grand Prairie at that time was probably 1%, if that much. Now we&#039 ; re close to 10% in population in the city of Grand Prairie. Just Asia Times Square alone has 70 Asian business owners from less than a handful. Now you have 70 Asian businesses. So it has grown tremendously. Dallas-Fort Worth has grown tremendously, and we&#039 ; re benefiting from that. So, yeah, it&#039 ; s just the growth has just been phenomenal, and I hope it can continue. But if it continues, we&#039 ; ll need to have better infrastructure investment for sure. |00:57:20| Brody What do you mean? |00:57:22| Loh You know, just traffic and the way we handle business because we have to be prepared if the growth continues. Sometimes when a business is not prepared for the growth, it can backfire, and you won&#039 ; t be able to sustain it. So you always have to make improvement. I always share with entrepreneurs. You know, everyone always thinks about, you know, making as much money and saving. And I said, &quot ; No, you&#039 ; ve got to reinvest those money into your own property if you want to sustain.&quot ; So I&#039 ; m a huge believer of reinvestment, reinvesting, not just repairing and renovating. But you&#039 ; ve got to reinvest into your own property and your own product to continue to grow. |00:58:14| Brody The last few years in Dallas have been rough for restaurants, especially because first we had the tornado, then COVID, and all the labor shortages and supply chain issues. How has your business been affected by any of those challenges? |00:58:32| Loh Yeah, labor is a huge challenge for us. Labor is a huge challenge for us, and I think that was part of the reason that we went ahead and made an improvement to invest in self-checkout for the grocery store. But just besides that, other departments, and other businesses that we have are suffering from lack of labor, shortages of labor. But we&#039 ; ve just got to continue to try to improve. You know, due to COVID, I&#039 ; m pretty sure everywhere you go, there&#039 ; s always signage on the restaurants or wherever, &quot ; Short of staff, please be patient.&quot ; You know, and I think the COVID-19 pandemic, the silver lining, I do believe there are more people who value families and are more willing to be more patient than before. So that that is the silver lining. But, you know, the some of the other tragedies that comes from it is something that we&#039 ; re going to continue to try to work through and get better at. |00:59:37| Brody You know, during the initial, you know, COVID period in early 2020, I assume Hong Kong Marketplace was considered an essential business. So did you stay open? What did that feel like during that time period? |00:59:54| Loh Yes, we definitely stayed open. The business grew and COVID was just so new and so scary too. Everyone was concerned. And I think we, I&#039 ; m very proud of how we operate as a business. We&#039 ; re always trying to be as transparent with our customers. And there was a time when one of our employees, we found out was not well and then we asked him to get a check and was tested positive for COVID. So, what we decided to do was, we just make a public announcement and we&#039 ; re going to close the business, hired a third party to come in and sanitize, did whatever they did to get us ready to reopen for business. Many people would say, &quot ; Why would you do that?&quot ; Because at that time, when COVID is so scary and then when you hear of a business that someone there has COVID, what&#039 ; s your initial reaction? &quot ; I would never go there. I&#039 ; m not going to go. I&#039 ; m going to stay away from there.&quot ; And what we decided to do is to be transparent. &quot ; Hey, we&#039 ; re not going to put anybody at risk.&quot ; And we just- business is business, but we don&#039 ; t know what&#039 ; s going on. So we just go ahead and let people know. &quot ; Sorry...Yeah. One of our...&quot ; And the reaction I got from that was pretty phenomenal. People were so thankful that we stepped up, and our business has...I think because they know that we are always going to try to do the right thing. We cannot always make everybody happy ; I think and that&#039 ; s a known fact. But we will always do our very best to do the right thing. So that and then in addition to that, when do you remember when everyone was going out and trying to grab as many toilet papers as possible? So we did the opposite thing. Luckily with our buying power, we were able to secure loads of toilet paper before it ran out. And instead of putting a limit on how much people can buy, we put a limit on how much a senior can get the toilet paper for free. So we were handing out free toilet paper when everyone else was increasing the price or whatnot. So for the seniors specifically, we just said, you know, we want to take care of you guys. So we did that, and we got...I think that too for the grocery store, doing the COVID was something that I&#039 ; m very proud of our team to do what we did. |01:03:08| Brody It sounds like as a family-owned business, you really cultivate that relationship and trust with your customers, even though it&#039 ; s grown so much in multiple branches. But did you have to pivot to do curbside and things like that as well? |01:03:25| Loh We did. We tried to accommodate those, but it was just extremely difficult to do that when you were already short of staff. And not only were you short of staff, but that your business has increased because it&#039 ; s an essential business. So it was extremely difficult phase for us. And I&#039 ; ll be honest with you, we were blessed. We&#039 ; re pretty successful in what we do, but we&#039 ; re not the Walmart or the chain store with the deep pockets and whatnot. We are still a family-owned business. We consider ourselves small business, so there were a lot of challenges that we had to go through. Installing those plastic guards between the customer and the cashier, make sure everyone have masks, we bought in the thermostat where people can scanned their temperature before they come in. So we did all of that to the best of our ability. But we tried to do curbside, but it was a little bit challenge. We did it. It just took us a little bit longer because we were just so short on staff. |01:04:33| Brody It makes sense. As a family-owned business, do you guys still see yourselves as a &quot ; mom and pop&quot ; shop or how would you characterize it? |01:04:43| Loh The answer is yes. Yes. So, you know, when our business continued to grow and now, you know, our business is more- I concentrate more on the real estate side for the family business. And I have a property management company as well. And I love structure. I love structure. But I do not want the structure...I do not want it to be so structured to the point where we lose the family ties and the family way of doing business. Every team member that comes in is my family, is my new family member. Everybody from the produce department, seafood department, janitors, whomever- they are now my family, and I just don&#039 ; t want to lose that. I think the way we want to operate is how I always hear my dad said, when you own a business, our vendors are our friends, our friends, our customer, our friends are our families, you know, and our customers are our friends and family. And we want to have that kind of relationship with our customer. And to be in business for 36 years, that means we&#039 ; re doing something right. And I don&#039 ; t want to change that. I love our customers. I love how much they have supported us through the years, and I want to continue to have that kind of relationship. I want our staff to have that kind of relationship with our customers as well. Are we going to make everybody happy? No. I think it&#039 ; s impossible. |01:06:34| Brody That&#039 ; s great. I&#039 ; m just thinking about. This time period that we&#039 ; re talking about from COVID and till until now, we&#039 ; ve seen a lot in the news and a lot of really tragic instances of anti-Asian violence or rhetoric. With a very publicly Asian business and being a hub where Asians gather and where non-Asians also enjoy Asian culture, how have you dealt with some of those rhetorical and unfortunate violent incidents? |01:07:21| Loh Yeah. So like I said earlier, I think America is a great nation, the greatest nation. But she&#039 ; s not perfect. She&#039 ; s trying to become perfect, but she&#039 ; s not perfect. So there are dark moments and incidents that I&#039 ; ve experienced. Even, I remember vividly today, many years ago, when I was driving to my parking lot at my Dallas location business, I just drove there. I own, my family owned the building, owned the parking lot, but yet this non-Asian guy drives up to me and tell me to &quot ; Get the F--- out of this country.&quot ; And that hurts. And the same incident happened to my own dad. And it was painful, but I think we can continue to learn from that experience and try to do better by spreading love and by hosting events. I think that&#039 ; s why I&#039 ; m so passionate about doing, hosting the events that I host. I really want people to understand who we are. It&#039 ; s very unfortunate as Asian American to be recognized or be considered as American. I have many great friends. They know that. And I share with them. I share with my White friends, with my Black friends, with my Italian friend and Mexican friend. I share with them that you know your children and you the longer you stay, you will be recognized as an American. But for Asian American to be considered as American, it is still a work in progress. I&#039 ; ve done the tests just for fun. Some of my friends and their kids&#039 ; friends. I say, &quot ; I want you to close your eyes. I want you to close your eyes.&quot ; And they close their eyes and I say, &quot ; Think of one of the greatest Americans.&quot ; And then I tell them, &quot ; Who do you pick?&quot ; Some guy would say, &quot ; Michael Jordan.&quot ; Some would have Abraham Lincoln or whomever. But none of them said any Asian name in there. And we were talking about even our own Asian kids are thinking that way because that&#039 ; s how they&#039 ; ve been taught. And that&#039 ; s how we&#039 ; ve been looked at which is we are seen, but we&#039 ; re not seen as American. So I think, again, even though I say all this, I&#039 ; m just extremely blessed to be American. She&#039 ; s not perfect, but there&#039 ; s no other place I would rather be. Can she improve? Definitely. And I think it&#039 ; s going to require all of us, all the business owners, all the people, communities to get involved and just kind of understand one another more. And the thing I share with you, my purpose is to replace ignorance with acceptance. And we&#039 ; re going to work towards that. And we are making progress. I really believe so. And, you know, due to COVID, when the anti-Asian hate crime was on the rise, we decided to host an event and celebrate Asian Heritage Month. In the month of May is when we do Asian Heritage Fest, and that&#039 ; s when we recognize all the great Asian Americans who have contributed so much to this society, to this country. Last year, when we did it, I told I made a speech and I said that I shared with the public and there were many dignitaries there as well. I said that I read a report that Asian population is on the rise. But even in, I think the report was done in 2009, where the total Asian population in America was like 5.4% or whatever, 5.4% population in America. But do you know how much we contribute to the economic impact? 7.8%. That&#039 ; s huge. From a, if we&#039 ; re only a 5.4%, but we are responsible for 7.8% of the economy. That is huge. Right. And so I think people need to start just need to appreciate, celebrate, and just welcome. It is time for us to not be overlooked. I think as an Asian American, it sometimes feels very unfair. And I hate to say that, but it is unfair that an Asian American, especially with an Asian last name that are trying to apply for scholarship, even if they get straight A&#039 ; s, is very hard for us to get it. Had we been not and it&#039 ; s just very unfair at times where I see non-Asian will say that we&#039 ; re the minority- &quot ; model minority&quot ; and I hate that terminology too- &quot ; model minority.&quot ; But then some of the minority group say that we&#039 ; re not colored people, So I don&#039 ; t know where we are, you know, so it&#039 ; s just, it&#039 ; s a work in progress and I think everybody needs to continue to work hard. And I can assure you that that is one of my passionate projects. I want people to unite, and I don&#039 ; t want it to be an anti-Asian hate crime. I want it to be just an anti-hate project. You know when the Dallas mayor recognized one day for that? I was like, you know, one day? So anyway, we just need to work towards replacing all the hatred in our society. And I think sometimes, it&#039 ; s just the negativity is what sells. And I&#039 ; m going to do everything I can to celebrate all of positivity in this great nation. |01:14:14| Brody That&#039 ; s fantastic and really well said. To you, what does it mean to be an American? |01:14:21| Brody You know, I think American, to me, and the American, a lot of people, this is where people are so...oh, I don&#039 ; t know what&#039 ; s the word? I&#039 ; m losing my thought. But, you know, America has nothing to do with color. It does not have anything to do with color. I think in America has to do everything about the spirit of being a good person, the spirit of taking a full advantage of all the opportunities this great nation provides, and to succeed in life, in our career, and to be able to give back. You know, when an American is Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Bill, without knowing who I am, but their love for people, for humanity, is what drove them to sponsor my family from a refugee camp. We were in the refugee camp for nine months, waiting and not knowing where we&#039 ; re going to be, but praying and hoping that we will be able to come to America. That&#039 ; s an American right there. Without knowing, she- the love that she had, and she just sponsored and gave us the chance for a good life. And you know what that is? That&#039 ; s my mission. And that&#039 ; s to try to give back as much as I can. You attended our Lunar New Year banquet, and I shared with you that, you know, after my dad passed away, I created the Loh Foundation. L-O-H Love, Opportunity, Hope. And that&#039 ; s what America&#039 ; s about- love, opportunity, and hope. I am the proudest American I think you can think of. Because I don&#039 ; t back away from saying that. And I&#039 ; m proud to say that because I think I lived the American dream. You know, I came from literally nothing. And to be able for me to in my family, to be where we are and to be able to give back and continue to work hard to give back, I think that&#039 ; s the American spirit. That&#039 ; s what America is about. |01:16:40| Brody Really beautiful. What are some of the ways that the Loh Foundation gives back? |01:16:46| Loh Oh, I love just to see the kids. We give out scholarships to kids. Each and every year, we give out the scholarship and during the banquet, we just give out $10,000. But throughout the whole year, there are other opportunities that other charitable events seek out help and we donate to them. But giving out scholarships is one of my favorite things. And to hear their stories kind of reminds me of what I went through. And some of them were just so unbelievably talented, smart. And each and every time I give out a scholarship, I tell them that I want them to be successful so that they can continue to give out scholarships. I remember when I received my scholarship, it meant so much to me. I was so proud of myself to have received that. And I just want to be able to get that because I consider that a loan. And then when I&#039 ; m going to pay that loan, I&#039 ; m going to pay with a huge interest. And that&#039 ; s why I encourage all the students who received the foundation scholarship to do that as well, keep the ball rolling. And then for our foundation, you know, we&#039 ; re talking about love, spreading love, creating opportunities, and giving hope to all. So any nonprofit out there that can help us execute the mission, we would love to participate. And we will love the, we love helping out the homeless shelter. There&#039 ; s a great organization out there that goes out and helps homeless. We help projects in overseas in Vietnam, that&#039 ; s where I was born. And then there&#039 ; s just so many domestic violence that need help. We&#039 ; re there. The Police Association, as you can tell. Love the police. I love first responders and just the community in general. Just there&#039 ; s a lot of things we can do to make our society better. And I just am very thankful and blessed that the Loh foundation can play a part in that. |01:19:02| Brody It&#039 ; s great. Correct me if I&#039 ; m wrong, but did I see a resolution commemorating Asia Times Square in the Texas Legislature? |01:19:12| Loh Yes. Yes. |01:19:13| Brody How did that come about? |01:19:17| Loh So, I am the first Asian to be a chairman of the Grand Prairie Chamber of Commerce. |01:19:27| Brody Congratulations. |01:19:28| Loh Thank you. That was a couple of years, a few years ago. Let&#039 ; s not say how many years ago, but... And so when I was chairman, I worked closely with the president of the chamber, and we decided to create an Asian Business Council for the chamber. And we did that, and we hosted a number of events. And then Congressman... Oh, my God, I&#039 ; m drawing a blank. I think it&#039 ; s Congressman Barton attended the event and then he recognized Asia Times Square and the Loh family, and it&#039 ; s actually recorded in the Library of Congress. And that was a very proud moment. And it&#039 ; s just like I said, I&#039 ; m just very happy and blessed to be able to do what we do. You know, when my dad passed away, I received an official US flag was flown at the Washington Capitol on the day that my dad passed away, and that was hand-delivered to me. So it&#039 ; s actually folded in a case as well as a Texas flag that was flown in Austin State Capitol as well on the day that my dad passed away. |01:20:48| Brody And it&#039 ; s really special. |01:20:49| Loh It&#039 ; s extremely special. And, you know, I owe all that I&#039 ; ve accomplished everything I did to Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Bill. They gave us a chance. My dad taught me everything that I know. It&#039 ; s like I mentioned to you it was just his sheer determination and his work ethic is what I took most out of him. And then just being surrounded by good people, meeting you, meeting everybody. I just tried to learn from everybody I talk to. And I&#039 ; m not talking about just people who are top officials and whatnot, just anyone that I talk to. I think each and every one have a special gift that I can learn. Even a kid, this small kid, they will see things that we wouldn&#039 ; t see from their eyes and stuff. So like I said, my daughter taught me something, right? And it was a huge lesson that I learned from her. To replace ignorance with acceptance. Just bypass tolerance, let&#039 ; s be acceptance. Now, I&#039 ; m...I love to learn from people. I&#039 ; m a student. I will always continue to be a student. And I think having that mindset makes me a better person. |01:22:09| Brody It&#039 ; s a really nice spirit. And thank you. I appreciate you giving me a compliment as well. Well, we&#039 ; ve talked about a lot of things today. And is there anything that I didn&#039 ; t ask or that you&#039 ; d like to add to this interview? |01:22:24| Loh No, I just I&#039 ; m very blessed and thankful that you&#039 ; re doing this interview. I feel extremely honored for me to have this opportunity to share my story with your audience. It&#039 ; s a blessing. And hopefully those who are listening can continue to do good, succeed in their life and in their career, and do positive things that will make our society a better place. |01:22:54| Brody Well, thank you so much for your time and for your wisdom. I appreciate it. |01:22:58| Loh Thank you. All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. audio Interviews may be reproduced with permission from the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. 0

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“Interview with Matthew Loh, January 25, 2023,” Digging In Dallas, accessed July 12, 2024, https://diggingindallas.org/items/show/38.