November 20th is the grand opening of Eden Prairie’s and the Twin Cities’ first pan-Asian mall called Asia Mall. Asia Mall is a 116,000-square-foot, two-story mall bought by five investors, one of which is Amor Zhao, for $7.2 million. The main developer is Caspian Group broker, Marshall Nguyen. According to Zhao, the goal of the mall is to “represent all AAPI (American and Pacific Islander) cultures under one roof.” The significance of the mall lies in Minnesota’s overall commitment to fostering its AAPI community, providing better business practices and management to local Asian businesses, and is a product of Nguyen’s own personal background emigrating to the United States from Vietnam and wanting better for his community.
Marshall Nguyen currently lives in Prior Lake, Minnesota, and immigrated from Vietnam to the United States when he was five. Part of the reason he took on the project of developing the Asia Mall was because of his realization that minorities are often underserved in the commercial real estate field and Eden Prairie has a need for the mall. Eden Prairie, with an AAPI population of around 8,000 people which accounts for 12.6% of the total population, does not have a central location for Asian groceries and restaurants. According to the 2020 Census, there are 289,783 Asian Americans living in Minnesota. Nguyen wanted to create a “one-stop shop” where residents could eat authentic Asian food, shop for groceries at an Asian market, as well as learn about different Asian cultures all in one place. For people like Zhao, it is common in the Twin Cities to drive long lengths just to shop at an Asian market––Asia Mall will close this gap.
Asia Mall will be anchored by Asian Mart 88, an Asian grocery store, and Hot Pot City, a Chinese restaurant serving the famous hot pot dish. Other restaurants to look forward to include Pho Mai, Uni Uni Bubble Tea, Bober Tea & Mochi Dough, and CrunCheese Korean Hot Dog. The mall is set to also include an insurance company, travel agency, used car dealership, and hair salon.
Cognizant of other Asian businesses neighboring Eden Prairie, Nguyen has situated Asia Mall in a location where there is not much competition and that is away from long-established Asian businesses, so as not to take away business. For example, many local Asian businesses near Eden Prairie are in Minneapolis’ famous “Eat Street” known for a diverse collection of eateries specifically tied to the AAPI community. Nguyen is also part of another development project that plans to continue launching Asian businesses in Minnesota. His next project, set to open at the end of 2023, is an anticipated Asian supermarket and international food hall in Burnsville Center in Burnsville, Minnesota. Asia Mall and the incoming Burnsville Center represent a dominant culture in Minnesota that embraces the AAPI community through food. From Burmese to Vietnamese, Hmong, and Chinese influences, tasty food and good business continue to be the bridge that connects locals to a multitude of Asian ethnicities and cultures.
Alura Winfrey is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington participating in the Young Professionals Program. She is a third-year undergraduate student attending George Washington University where she is majoring in International Affairs with a regional concentration in Asia.