- Associated Press - Sunday, June 9, 2019

MESA, Ariz. (AP) - Dozens of Asian-owned businesses have set up shop in west Mesa, with large supermarkets serving as anchors for development that includes restaurants and other businesses, resulting in a commerce cluster aided by proximity to Mesa Community College and the presence of Arizona State University’s main campus in neighboring Tempe.

“When we came in eight years ago there were a lot of vacancies, we were the only ones in the area,” said Steven Diep, Mekong Plaza’s property manager. “I actually thought it was a bad location. But now, Mekong Plaza is one of the major influencers, and with ASU not too far away, what drives a lot of the business here are the international students.”

When Mekong Plaza opened in 2008, fewer than 10 Asian-owned businesses were open in the area, Diep said.

The Arizona Republic reports that Mekong is now at full occupancy with 28 tenants and has spurred development in the rest of the Asian business district along Dobson Road.

Alex Cruz and Matthew Wong live in Avondale and Laveen, respectively, on the opposite side of Metro Phoenix but said their decision to open up a Hong Kong-style bubble waffle shop in Mesa was a natural choice, despite the 40-minute commute.

Genbu Waffles, which opened in December, is tucked into a nondescript shopping mall where it is flanked by a Korean barbecue restaurant and a Korean supermarket.

“Here we’re close to MCC, and in Tempe you have ASU,” Cruz said. “There’s a lot of college students, and those are the people who really want to go out all the time.”

With the closing of the Chinese Cultural Center in Phoenix last year, many see the Asian business district in Mesa as a natural successor to become a hub for Asian-Americans in metro Phoenix.

“With the Cultural Center, it was almost like someone built a place and said, ‘Put Asian stores here,’” said Ryan Winkle, a former Mesa City Council member and co-founder of an advocacy group for downtown Mesa and the light rail corridor. “No one was asking the Asian business people where they wanted to locate.

“With Mesa, no one told them, ‘There’s a great place, go there.’” he said. “They just did.”

Winkle works with the Arizona Asian Chamber of Commerce to develop and brand the Asian business district around the light rail in Mesa.

“They’ll be partnering to kind of ground roots in the Asian district and start forming their own identity more than before,” Winkle said. “We’ve been working on it for years with people who love the area.”


Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com

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