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Happy Lunar New Year Part 2: Vietnamese, Korean, and Pan-Asian Malls

Caroline Wu
Feb 16, 2024
Happy Lunar New Year Part 2: Vietnamese, Korean, and Pan-Asian Malls

There are so many ways to say Happy New Year in Asian languages, such as  “Gong Xi Fa Cai” in Mandarin, which means wishing you prosperity in the coming year, “Saehae Bok Mani Badeuseyo” in Korean, wishing you lots of luck, and “Chuc mung nam moi” in Vietnamese, with a similar meaning of wishing you a joyful year.  Along with these auspicious greetings are traditional foods such as dumpling soup, mung bean pancake, BBQ beef, sticky rice cakes, and candied fruits.  Within the melting pot that is the USA, one can often find an Asian-themed shopping center in which to partake of the festivities. In Westminster, CA, Asian Garden Mall is one of the largest Vietnamese shopping centers in the U.S. At The Source OC, Korean shops and eateries abound. In the Midwest, one can visit Asia Mall Minnesota, with a pan-Asian panoply of offerings.

Last year, Lunar New Year kicked off on Jan. 22, and we can see that Asian Garden Mall visits skyrocketed on that day (below)

During the summer, there is also a vibrant night market there, open from 7-11pm on the weekends. Finds include pork skewers and buns, grilled scallops, mini shrimp crepes, and sugar cane juice.

Asian Garden Mall Night Market 2.14.24

The night market takes place in the parking lot of Asian Garden Mall and draws accretive business. What would normally be empty during the Feb-May period without a night market becomes a thriving evening adventure during the summer months.

In comparing Feb-May visits (blue) versus Jun-Sept visits (red) below, the mall also draws from a much larger trade area when the night market is occurring.

Night Market Trade Area image
Asian Garden Venn diagram image

In terms of festivities, parades and food stalls abound at celebrations like the Tet festival in New Orleans, which takes place this year on Feb. 16-18 in the Village de l’Est neighborhood. There will be fireworks and a dragon dance and of course vats of simmering pho, crispy spring rolls, and puffy fried bananas. In San Jose, CA, home to one of the US’s largest Vietnamese populations, a Tet celebration will be held in the former Sears parking lot at Eastridge Center from Feb 16-18.  There will be a talent contest, a visit from Miss Vietnam California, carnival rides, and of course plenty of food booths and desserts.

One of the newer Korean-themed malls is the Source OC, which opened in 2019.  While the majority of the food options transport you to being in Korea, there is also Italian at Il Fiora, Japanese at Izakaya Ichie, and Mexican at La Huasteca.  One can indulge in Gangnam House Korean BBQ, Monday to Sunday shaved ice, and Cheesetella Japanese Cheesecake. We saw the Source OC dip during Covid like practically all retail, but it has bounced back and is now exceeding pre-Covid visitation levels. Besides the draw of the food, there is also an indoor golf-simulator, a VR experience, and a children’s playground.

Both Koreatown Plaza and Koreatown Galleria are long-standing stalwarts in the heart of LA, but as Americans of all ethnicities increasingly migrate to suburbs, we will no doubt see more shopping center options catering to ethnic tastes outside of downtowns.

The nation’s first enclosed shopping mall was Southdale Center in Edina, MN, a project that opened in 1956, by Victor Gruen, an Austrian-American who would henceforth be known as the “father of the shopping mall.” His original vision was a community hub with access to many shops as well as medical centers, schools, and even residences. This did not occur in the 50s, but three-quarters of a century later, many mall developers are re-envisioning malls to be places to live, eat, play, and shop as well as have access to essential services and to be that third space for community gatherings and celebrations. How fitting that another recent mall in Minnesota, the Asia Mall has been conceived as a reflection of the local community. It opened in November 2022, inspired by the desire for a one-stop pan-Asian mall to get all groceries as opposed to dashing around Minneapolis, St. Paul, Brooklyn Park, and Brooklyn Center to obtain the desired goods. Food and drinks are procured from various Asian countries, such as Vietnam, China, and Korea and anchored by grocery store Asian Mart 88. Dining includes Pho Mai, Hot Pot City with all-you-can-eat hot pot, Cruncheez Korean hot dogs, and Mochi Dough doughnuts.  As part of the trend for including essential services, this mall also has a hair salon, insurance company, and travel agency.

It also appears the concept of one-stop-shop, be it for Asian groceries or for warehouse-sized purchases, is prized by the inhabitants of Eden Prairie who really value efficiency. Asia Mall does half the visits of the nearby Costco, which is impressive. Besides home and work, visitors of Asia Mall are most likely to visit Costco before or after a shopping trip (below).

Asia Mall Visitor Journey to Costco 2.16.24

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Caroline Wu

Director of Research,

Caroline brings expertise in retail, CRE, entertainment, media, CPG, and tourism, and specializes in synthesizing broad datasets into actionable recommendations for growth. She has worked as the US Director of Consumer Insights at Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, VP of Retail Insights and Intelligence at Omnicom, and Senior Director at Kantar. Caroline holds an MA in Sociology from Stanford University and a BA in International Relations from Stanford University.

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