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Preserving Tradition and Promoting Culture at Asia Times Square

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Preserving Tradition and Promoting Culture at Asia Times Square

  • The Lohs of Grand Prairie

At the Pearl, one group of diners converses animatedly in Vietnamese. At the next table over, a server delivers a steaming serving of dim sum, little jewels in a round basket. The youngsters are restless, eager to go try out the carnival games before the Flower Festival gets under way at dusk.

No, it’s not Saigon—but Asia Times Square, one of the largest Asian markets in Texas, centered in the immigrant enclave of Grand Prairie between Dallas and Fort Worth.

AT ASIA TIMES SQUARE guests can shop for maneki-neko and Buddha figurines and bamboo plants — and dine on Chinese delicacies such as chicken feet and dim sum.

While manufacturing and high-tech industry have recently brought an influx
of far eastern and southwest Asian workers to the area, many Vietnamese families arrived here in the mid-1970s, fleeing the humanitarian crisis in their native country and looking to escape communism. According to the Migration Policy Institute, the Dallas–Fort Worth–Arlington metropolitan area today has the fifth largest population of Vietnamese immigrants in the United States.

A QUEST FOR FREEDOM

That’s the story of the late Grant Loh, who struggled to find a way to a better life away from repression by the communist regime. In 1977 he and his wife attempted to leave Vietnam with their eight children. Loh was captured and imprisoned for months in difficult conditions. At last reaching an American refugee camp in Malaysia, the Lohs spent nine months awaiting passage to the U.S. before a sponsor, Aunt Bonnie Minitra, helped them reach freedom. “She’s our angel,” says Grant’s son Matthew.

The Lohs, from Vietnam, settled in Texas in the 1980s. In the back row of the family photo above, from left, are parents Kay and Grant and son John; at front, children Matthew (also shown upper right, today), Melodie, Richard, David, Steve, and Bonnie.

Grant Loh’s journey to financial independence in the new country was an arduous one. Having settled first on the High Plains, in 1985, when a snowstorm forced Loh to abandon his plans to travel home to his family in Kansas, he stopped into an Asian market in Arlington for a meal, and to purchase gifts for a friend he was going to visit. The owners of the market were looking to sell out. The very next day Grant and his oldest son returned to the store to close a deal.

Youngest son Matthew runs the Pearl Restaurant and Lounge today; the family owns two markets with locations in Grand Prairie and Dallas. Occupying a glittering corner of the colorfully lighted Asia Times Square, the Pearl delights tourists as well as Vietnamese looking for a taste of home.

“We were blessed to have the support we had, and the business continued to grow,” says Matthew. “When you talk about the land of opportunity, there is no greater land than the U.S. We went from absolutely nothing to what we have now.” The Lohs hold a deep love for Texas—and for Texans, on account of their kindness and spirit of hospitality.

MORE THAN A MARKET

Asia Times Square has grown from what was once a market that served the community and provided for a family with big dreams, to a multi-purpose center with restaurants, boutiques, grocers, beauty and health providers, and other retailers that hosts the popular “Dem Cho Hoa” (Night Flower Market) to celebrate each Lunar New Year.

Visitors can experience Asian cul- ture through traditional celebrations and traditional dishes mingled with modern cuisine and entertainment. In a complex that blends modern and tra- ditional Asian design, customs are held dear. Sights and smells of the market transport travelers virtually around the world, and to earlier times. Be daring — try out a new dish or go exploring through the luxuriant grocery aisles!

DIM SUM YUM YUM The authentic Hong Kong–style dim sum served daily at the Pearl Restaurant and Lounge is based on a traditional meal once reserved for the Emperor of China and his family dating back 2,500 years ago. The delicately designed, bite-sized servings are presented in small steamer baskets like those shown at right — and everyone around the table shares in the treat.

LOVE, OPPORTUNITY, HOPE

The Loh family provides a space where people from all backgrounds are welcome to explore the cultures of Asia, and for those of Asian descent to enjoy a touch of home or learn about their own heritage. Younger generations are encouraged to keep traditional customs alive: creating a sense of community is the building block of all that the Loh family does.

“Do more, talk less, be humble” was the motto Grant Loh imparted to his descendants, says Matthew.

The success that the family has built, together with the help of others, has now afforded them the chance to give back. To honor the memory of their father, the younger Lohs launched a foundation that awards scholarships to students and provides aid to community nonprofits. Its name? The LOH Foundation: Love, Opportunity, Hope, “continuing the legacy of spreading Love, providing Opportunity, and giving Hope to all.”

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