Asian Shopkeepers And The Economics Of Improving Corner Stores
DCentric, April 10, 2012.
Newly-elected Washington D.C. councilman Marion Barry recently criticized Asian-owned corner stores in D.C., saying the shops are “dirty.” Later he said they should sell healthier products and improve their stores. The councilman is being criticized for the negative remarks he made about Asian store owners, and the incident has people talking about the sometimes tense relationship between the Asian and black communities in D.C.
This article describes some of the challenges small stores face in selling healthier products, and includes an interview with an Asian store owner who participates in DC Central Kitchen’s Healthy Corners Program. The program–funded with a $300,000 grant from the city–includes the launch of an affordable wholesale delivery service that store owners can use to order healthy foods. The store owner interviewed in the article points out that not all Asian store owners have bad relationships with their customers, and suggests that communication can be difficult not only for “Asian retailers, but pretty much all immigrants in the community…The immigrants have the same issue where there’s a language barrier, and also the cultural differences they haven’t quite grasped. It’s just a process they go through. I don’t know how to close that gap real quickly.” He also suggests that customers ask their local store to carry healthier options or specific products they are interested in.