By Assunta Ng
Northwest Asian Weekly
At the end of the day on Sunday, Aug. 9, Viet Wah Superfoods was permanently closed for business at the location on 6040 Martin Luther King Jr. Way S., Seattle.
Fifty people are out of work at the store of 24,000 sq. ft., specializing in Asian groceries.
High rent is an important factor, according to Duc Tran, owner of Viet Wah. “I have been negotiating the lease with the landlord since last year, hoping that he will not increase 20 percent on the rent.” The store is the anchor business at Empire Way Plaza for 15 years.
“Grocery business is tough to do,” Tran said. “The profit margin is thin. Labor cost goes up.” The $15 minimum wage law was passed last year with a phase-in for $11 this April.
He said he tried to sell it to keep the store going. But three potential buyers backed out due to the expensive rent and triple net.
“If the landlord appreciates Viet Wah’s presence for 15 years, I would try to continue the business,” said Tran. “But he doesn’t really care.
“I am relieved now that I don’t have to endure any heartache. I can retire.”
Tran had also suffered from head injuries after a fall two years ago at his restaurant in Renton.
On Viet Wah Facebook page, “It has been a privilege serving this community for the past 15 years. Thank you for making Viet Wah Superfoods part of your life, whether you shopped here a few times a week or a few times a year. We hope you will continue to support Viet Wah at our other two locations.
There was social media outcry about the closing, with over 80 Facebook shares and comments that ranged from simple “NO!!!” to concern about how it will affect the community in the South End.
Tran, a Vietnamese-Chinese, came to America as a boat refugee. He first started a small grocery store on 668 S. Jackson in 1980. Later, he expanded to Asian Plaza on 10th Ave. S. and S. Jackson; and another store in Renton.
The landlord Paul Liao also owns Pacific Rim Mall, Jackson Square, and other properties in the Chinatown/International District. The Asian Weekly attempted to call the landlord’s manager for comment, but there was no response. (end)
Assunta Ng can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.