Nice article in today's Chron about the success of Asian immigrants in Houston. While there is an established Asian enclave on the south end of downtown, the booming area for new arrivals and their second-generation children is out west and southwest, starting in the Sharpstown area and heading out into the suburbs.
A little more than 20 years ago, this vast ethnic retail strip along Bellaire [Boulevard] was barren prairie with a building here and there. It is now the largest Asian business district in the South, and poised to get much bigger.
Stretching for miles, New Chinatown is unlike any other American Chinatown.
San Francisco's is an Old World scene with laundry strewn across windows, and in New York's crowded district, merchants hawk trinkets to tourists.
New Chinatown, meanwhile, is pure Houston, a string of strip centers with air-conditioned stores, built on the most basic of Houston formulas: Develop affordable land in driving range of your target suburban customer and keep expanding.
An ethnic retail community, the size of New Chinatown shatters the suburban stereotype and makes Asian immigrants feel at home as they assimilate into the mainstream.
New Chinatown was born in 1983 when Hong Kong native T.D. Wong and his nephew Kenneth Li developed a shopping center at Bellaire and Ranchester, in partnership with Chinese investor Chun Yao. They named it Diho Plaza.
They chose the spot for retail, Li said, because Bellaire was a major thoroughfare that went all the way to the Medical Center and it was near U.S. 59 and surrounded by residential development.
Li's uncle, with another partner, had already developed a Diho center in Monterrey Park in Los Angeles and believed a similar plan might work in Houston. Wong and Li approached Los Angeles entrepreneurs.
"We told them, `It's a new world,' " Li said. " `It's good for the young and the brave.' "
Recruiting from the Diho shopping center in Los Angeles, Yao, Wong and Li duplicated three of the businesses in Houston: the grocery store Diho Market, Lai Lai Dumpling House and World Bookstore.
(Damn. Now I'm hungry...)Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 11, 2002 to Elsewhere in Houston