Lunar New Year Here & There
Korean communities abroad will also be observing the Lunar New Year. Many Friends of Korea members will be celebrating with family and friends in the U.S. Except, their gatherings will likely be fused with elements of American culture creating a unique way to celebrate the holiday -- sharing 떡국 may morph into a "Dumplingfest."
Throughout American history, this has been the case -- a fusing of the old with the new. But, for most of the late 19th and 20th century, the immigrants mainly came from European traditions. It wasn't until changes in U.S. immigration laws in the 1960s that the gates of America were opened wider to Latin America and Asia. The demographic landscape of America has been changing ever since. Smithsonian.com predicts by 2050 that white, non-Hispanic Americans will be in the minority and the Hispanic and Asian communities will nearly double in size:
Traditionally, areas such as New York, LA, Chicago, Honolulu, and Washington, DC have been the centers of large Korean immigrant communities with fewer, but significant, numbers in cities such as Boston, San Francisco, and Seattle.
These days, however, large growth is also occurring in what I describe as "secondary destinations." That is, places where Korean immigrants have relocated to after living in the traditional urban Korean immigrant areas listed above. The Pew Research Center provides a graphic of the Korean Communities in the U.S.
The Korean-American Community in the Changing America
After a successful ten years in Bloomington, the brothers, noticed the burgeoning immigrant population to the north in Indianapolis and decided to open a larger Saraga on the west side of the city in 2005. Opening a 62,000 square-foot grocery store and trying to learn the dietary preferences of potential customers from Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East and South Asia was a challenge. John remembers that “it was difficult at first and we had to build up our stock based on what customers would ask for and what the vendors were suggesting. Often times, we had to throw away produce and items that weren’t selling.”
By 2008, the brothers had started to overcome the stress of this “trial and error” period, and the store started to operate in the black. Greater success soon followed as the store revenues began to grow significantly.
The success of the store also opened up another opportunity for the brothers. John told me that they noticed that some of their regular customers were Burmese. By talking to them, he learned that the south side of Indianapolis had a large Burmese population, particularly the Chin ethnic group, recent refugees to the area. However, the south side of town lacked a store that could serve their needs. To assist this population, he bought a van to transport the Burmese to his store, often making round trip journeys three to four times a day. However, being chauffeur and trying to manage a large supermarket was a challenge for John, so in 2010 he and his brother decided to give up the transportation business and opened a smaller Saraga store near the Burmese community in Greenwood, Indiana.
Having gone through the learning process of their Indiana stores, the brothers felt comfortable enough to spread the Saraga brand to the East and opened a store in Columbus, Ohio – about 2 hours from Indianapolis. Columbus, the fastest growing city in Ohio, is starting to see a large immigrant population develop on the northeastern side of the city – the perfect spot for another Saraga!
As of this time, John is still worried if the Columbus store will be a success or not. He is still learning the preferences of his new customers from Nepal, Bhutan, Somalia and Central America. But based on his determination and dedication to serving his customers, the chances for success are high.
And in the Year of the Horse, FOK wishes all its members and friends a very Happy New Year.
새해 복 많이 받으세요!