Twin Cities’ First Pan-Asian Mall Opens This Year
Whenever Marshall Nguyen’s family got together, they rushed to grocery stores in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center to buy Asian food for their feasts.
The lack of a centralized location for Asian grocery stores inspired the developers and Nguyen to open the Twin Cities‘ first pan-Asian mall – called Asia Mall – in Eden Prairie.
“In my experience, when we have family gatherings, we have to go to that convenience store or grocery store, that restaurant, that restaurant to pick things up,” Nguyen said. “What if we created a one-stop shop for… family reunions and parties? »
The two-story mall is approximately one-tenth the size of the Southdale Center in Edina and the Rosedale Center in Roseville. The mall’s owners aim to bring together food and drink from several countries, including Vietnam, China and Korea.
Mall owners plan to launch their two anchors in a soft opening before the end of the summer and slowly open more stores. Nguyen, the lead agent for the mall’s developer team, said he hopes to have the grand opening before winter.
Restaurants will serve a range of food and drinks, including pho, hot pot and bubble tea, Nguyen said.
Vendors and owners say they hope Asia Mall will provide a community space where local residents can shop and dine in one place.
The mall owners plan to anchor the space with an Asian grocery store and Hot Pot City, a restaurant that serves Chinese hot pot. Plans call for the grocery store to include one of the Twin Cities’ largest live seafood selections.
The mall is under construction. However, workers have completed the main stairs, which are lined with traditional East Asian designs.
Nguyen said he hopes the entire mall will closely resemble the architecture and art found in East Asia.
While selling buildings in the real estate industry, Nguyen realized that minorities were underserved in the world of commercial real estate.
He said he wanted to be part of the team developing Asia Mall as an investment in Asian communities. Nguyen, who lives in Prior Lake, immigrated to the United States from Vietnam when he was five years old.
After graduating from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, he opened a nail salon before entering the real estate profession.
“Success isn’t about you, it’s about serving people,” Nguyen said. “My mindset is to serve people first…and then all I get is a bonus.”
The developers want the mall to serve as a place where non-Asians can learn about East and Southeast Asian culture. They plan to feature different Asian New Year themes.
“It’s open to everyone,” Nguyen said.
Michael Bui is opening a branch of his Vietnamese restaurant, called Pho Mai, at Asia Mall. He hopes customers can experience traditional Vietnamese cuisine.
“There is a lack of traditional Vietnamese food in Eden Prairie,” Bui said. “Most Vietnamese restaurants, they Americanized it… but for our concepts, we’re going back to the old school. It’s really traditional food that you would find in Vietnam.”
Bui came to the United States when he was six years old. For him, growing up in 1980s Minnesota was “challenging” due to language and cultural barriers.
“My mom, that’s all she knew how to cook,” Bui said. “So she worked in restaurants and ended up starting her own. The only problem was that she knew how to cook, but she didn’t know how to run her own business.”
After earning degrees in business, finance and law, Bui decided to help her mother. He opened Pho Mai using mostly his mother’s recipes.
The mall is located approximately 10 miles west of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and the Mall of America, a location chosen by developers to attract business from out-of-state people.
But they also chose Eden Prairie to ensure that Asia Mall doesn’t draw customers away from long-established Asian shopping corridors in the Twin Cities.
A section of Minneapolis’ Nicollet Avenue south of downtown is affectionately nicknamed “Eat Street” for its collection of ethnic restaurants. University Avenue in St. Paul is known for its rich collection of Pan-Asian and African restaurants, while the city’s Hmongtown Market and Hmong Village feature several food stalls and shops.
Tenants are also drawn to Eden Prairie due to the local demand for Asian food.
Chang Yoo chose to open a new branch of his Korean hot dog restaurant, Cruncheese, in Asia Mall due to Eden Prairie’s high Asian population but lack of Asian restaurants and markets.
In addition to restaurants, the mall’s developers plan to add other services.
“The goal is to create a one-stop shop for people to spend time here,” Nguyen said.
This story comes from Sahan Newspaper, a nonprofit newsroom dedicated to covering Minnesota’s immigrants and communities of color. Subscribe to his free newsletter to receive stories in your inbox.