Asian-American-owned businesses thriving
Minny South was born nearly 9,000 miles away from Henrico County, where she opened an optometrist office in 2008.
Her family moved from Laos to California when she was five years old. She attended college in California and optometry school in Florida before moving to Virginia.
South, whose given name is Khammany Southammavong, said she feels at home doing business in eastern Henrico.
“I love the people who come in here. I’ve found the clientele that I like,” she said.
The office in White Oak Village sees lots of foot traffic and the area offers a large pool of potential patients. That’s one reason South said she chose the location.
“I felt like the opportunity was great here. There are not a lot of doctors in the area.”
South launched her business just as the economy was taking a hit. Owning a business during a recession hasn’t been easy. In fact, South said getting started presented one of her biggest challenges.
“It is hard being a woman starting a business. I started this place without capital,” she said. “I couldn’t get a business loan because I had just gotten out of school. It was really hard getting a loan. So I bugged a lot of family members.”
After three and half years, South said she has learned a great deal about running a business and she’s learning more each year.
Even during the recession thousands of Asian-Americans ventured into business ownership in Virginia. Last month, the Virginia Asian Chamber of Commerce (VACC) celebrated entrepreneurship among Asians.
The chamber reports that Virginia had about 30,450 Asian-American owned firms in Virginia in 2002. Now there are more than 44,500. Hundreds are located in Henrico County.
Zain Afzal and his parents, Rizwan Afzal and Sadia Rizwan, owned a restaurant for about five years in Midlothian. In January 2012 they relocated to Short Pump, where the family lives.
“We always planned on moving the business to the West End,” they wrote in an e-mail. “We wanted to open a location in Short Pump because the area is booming especially for ethnic cuisine.”
Kabab Grille, their small restaurant in Towne Center West, specializes in Zabiha halal Punjabi/Pakistani cuisine.
Malik Khan of the Asian American Society of Central Virginia said he expects the number of Asian-American owned businesses in the county, especially restaurants, to continue growing as the population changes.
“The primary reason, I think, is because of the growing Asian-American population in Henrico County and these restaurants do provide a much needed service. More importantly they provide jobs,” Khan said.
Andy and Eunice Zhang have just started new jobs and created a few new jobs for others. The couple, originally from China, opened Red Nails 2 salon in Willow Lawn Shopping Center this month.
On a recent Saturday morning, Andy Zhang put out trays of cookies and cupcakes for the salon’s grand opening while his wife gave a client a manicure.
The Zhangs are two of Henrico County’s newest entrepreneurs, after working for years at his family’s restaurants from Baltimore to Richmond.
Andy Zhang said his wife didn’t like the long working hours in restaurants so she trained to become a nail technician. After getting her certificate, she worked in salons.
“She had a dream. Her dream [was] to own a nail salon,” Andy Zhang said during an interview in one of the salon’s waxing rooms. “I’m her husband so I wanted to make her dream come true.”
The couple worked and saved money for about five years toward their dream.
Meanwhile, the owner of the original Red Nails (also in Willow Lawn) offered to help the Zhangs get started. Red Nails 2 opened once the shopping center expanded this spring.
Andy Zhang said getting everything ready for opening day was difficult. He described how they had to find all of the equipment and furniture and oversee building the salon from scratch.
“We spent a lot of time but it’s worth it. It’s worth it,” he said. Then he headed out of the side room to greet two new customers.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) will host a candlelight vigil of remembrance and hope Tuesday, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. at the University of Richmond, outside the Cannon Chapel. The public is invited to attend and join MADD to honor victims of impaired driving crashes, while helping to remind the community to be safe during the holidays. > Read more.
Among participants at the Seventh Annual Coordinators2Inc Golf Tournament and awards luncheon Oct. 3 were (from left) Rebecca Ricardo, C2 Inc executive director; Kevin Derr, member of the winning foursome; Sharon Richardson, C2 Inc founder; and Frank Ridgway and Jon King, members of the winning foursome.
Held at The Crossings Golf Club, the tournament will benefit placement of children from Virginia's foster care system into permanent families through Coordinators2. > Read more.
Event will help kick of Marine Corps' 'Toys for Tots' campaign
All 140 A.C. Moore locations will serve as drop-off centers this year for the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, and all toys collected will stay in the local communities served by the stores in which they are donated.
On Saturday, Nov. 15, the Willow Lawn location will kick off the month-long program by hosting a "Make & Take" craft event for kids. Children ages six and older will be able to make a craft and take it home with them. Representatives from the Marines will be in-store to teach customers about the Toys for Tots program. A.C. Moore team members will be on site to help with the crafts. > Read more.
The Dominion GardenFest of Lights Grand Illumination takes place tonight at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden! This year’s theme is “A Legacy in Lights: 120 Years from Bicycle Club to Botanical Garden,” which celebrates the Garden’s history. You can also celebrate Thanksgiving again – tomorrow at Henricus Historical Park. More great events – Lavender Fields Herb Farm and Wilton House Museum will both host their holiday open house events this weekend. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
Disney’s ‘Big Hero 6,’ lovable robot Baymax delight
It may be time for Olaf to step down as our nation’s reigning cartoon character. Big Hero 6, the latest animated feature from Disney, contains a challenger to the throne: Baymax (Scott Adsit), another lovably chubby white wonder, who will bring joy to children’s hearts and invade every home in America inside a six-foot pile of Disney merchandise.
Big Hero 6 (based ever so slightly on a Marvel comic of the same name) is the story of Baymax – and also his closest companion Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter). And then also their four friends, all of whom join together to form the titular superhero team.
At first, though, it’s only Hiro, a young boy and an engineering prodigy, who’d rather spend his time in underground robot fight clubs than do something productive with his gifts. > Read more.
Bella’s feels – and tastes – like Italy should
Short Pump is known for its share of chain restaurants and strip malls, but diners looking for something more distinct can certainly find it without heading downtown or to nearby Charlottesville.
In fact, local husband-and-wife restaurateurs Valeria Bisenti and Doug Muir brought a taste of Charlottesville (and Italy) to Short Pump when they took a chance and opened Bella’s second location in the same shopping strip as Wal-Mart and Peter Chang China Cafe. (Bella’s original location is on Main Street in downtown Charlottesville.)
For a local Italian restaurant, Bella’s is as “Mom and Pop” as its gets. Valeria is Mom, and Doug is Pop. Since its opening about six months ago, diners have been eating rich comfort foods and drinking Italian wines. > Read more.
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