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March 05, 2004

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Publication Date: Friday, March 05, 2004

Asian market rejuvenates shopping center Asian market rejuvenates shopping center (March 05, 2004)

Golden Phoenix may be future neighborhood cornerstone

By Grace Rauh

The sparkling new Asian mega-market that opened its doors last month on Rengstorff Avenue appears on its way to transforming the quiet shopping center in the Monta Loma neighborhood into a bustling commercial area.

When an Albertsons grocery store closed its doors more than two years ago, foot and car traffic slowed considerably. Local businesses chugged on, but the shopping center didn't have the same energy, shop owners said.

Hon Lien, a Chinese-Vietnamese woman who opened the Golden Phoenix with her husband Andrew Do on Feb. 18, said nearby business owners have been "very happy" with the new grocery store.

"It brings life back to the shopping center. I've been by there many, many times before I opened up the store and very little or very few cars parked there. And now you find the cars parked everywhere in there, almost full every, every time," Lien said.

Janey Kim, who owns 1 Hour Cleaners, just a few doors down from the Golden Phoenix, is pleased with the transformation. "I don't like to see empty store there," she said. Now when Kim looks beyond her shop's glass exterior, she sees a parking lot filled with cars. It's too early to tell how the new grocery store will affect her business, but she's optimistic.

"More traffic is good," Kim said. "The neighborhood waiting for this long time."

Named after Hon Lien, the Phoenix resembles a Western-style grocery store with wide aisles, bright lighting and a large frozen food section. But unlike the Albertsons it replaced, the Phoenix is stocked with hard-to-find products from across Asia, in addition to American staples, like yogurt, cereal and sliced bread.

"It has something for everyone," said Mantu Sandhu, who owns Ernie's Wines & Liquor in the same complex.

A bakery sells frosted cakes; hot Chinese spare ribs and noodle dishes are ready to take home and eat; and an expansive meat market displays whole chickens. Fresh fish line the fish counter, and tanks hold live crabs, lobsters and oysters. And the seafood department will fry any fish for no additional cost. The Phoenix also sells Mexican products, including 20 different types of whole dried chilies.

Although the grocery store attracted mostly older Asian couples on a recent Monday afternoon, Sandhu is confident that once people stroll through its doors "they'll recognize the market is a beautiful market," he said. He praised his new neighbor's produce section, meat selection and seafood.

Sandhu's sales at his liquor store haven't changed since the grocery opened. He doesn't think most Phoenix shoppers are "into drinking a lot of wines or beer or whatever," he said. But to prepare for any potential new clients, he has added Chinese plum wine, rice wine, liquor and Asian beer to his shelves.

Lien has noticed the interest her neighbors have taken in the Golden Phoenix. "I see them every day in my store," she said.

E-mail Grace Rauh at

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