Twin Cities’ First Pan-Asian Mall Will Open 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 Nguyen and a team of developers to open Eden Prairie’s Asia Mall, the first pan-Asian mall in the Twin Cities area.

“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.

They plan to launch the mall’s two anchors in a soft opening before the end of the summer, and then slowly open other stores. Nguyen, the chief agent for the mall’s developers, said he hopes to have the grand opening before winter.

The restaurants will serve a range of food and drinks, including pho, hot pot and bubble tea, Nguyen said.

Vendors and mall owners say they hope Asia Mall will provide a community space where local residents can shop and dine in one place.

The owners plan to anchor the mall 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.

Nguyen, who lives in Prior Lake, immigrated to the United States from Vietnam when he was 5 years old. He said he wanted to be part of the team developing Asia Mall as an investment in Asian communities.

After graduating from the University of Minnesota, he opened a nail salon before going into real estate.

“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 mall’s developers also want it to serve as a place where non-Asians can learn about East and Southeast Asian culture, and 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, Pho Mai, at the mall, where he hopes customers will 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 was 6 when he came to the United States, and he said language and cultural barriers made growing up in 1980s Minnesota “a challenge”.

“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 recipes.

The mall is about 10 miles west of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and the Mall of America, a location chosen by developers hoping to attract foreign customers.

But they also chose Eden Prairie to ensure that Asia Mall doesn’t draw customers away from long-established Asian shopping corridors elsewhere in the Twin Cities.

In Minneapolis, a stretch of Nicollet Avenue south of downtown is 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.

The local demand for Asian cuisine is also attracting restaurants to Eden Prairie.

Chang Yoo chose to open a branch of his Korean hot dog restaurant, Cruncheese, in Asia Mall due to the city’s large Asian population but lack of Asian restaurants and markets.

Apart from the restaurants, the developers of the mall are also planning 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.

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