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Fat Guy

Asian Corner Mall, Charlotte

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There have been mentions of the Asian Corner Mall in Charlotte in eG Forums discussions over the years (by the way, "Asian Corner Mall" is, according to a photo I took of the entrance, the correct name of the place -- not "Asian Corners" or "Asia Corners"), however I don't think there has ever been a topic devoted to exploring this wonderful place.

So, I thought I'd start one. I also have a secondary agenda, with is that I'm including a short piece on the Asian Corner Mall in my forthcoming book, "Turning the Tables on Asian Restaurants" and was hoping some of you who are local to the place might have some opinions, insights and factual tidbits.

My not-particularly-thorough research indicates that the mall opened in 1967 as the Tryon Mall, anchored by a Woolco and a Peoples department store, located in the middle of a thriving middle-class neighborhood. I believe the Tryon Mall flourished throughout the 1970s, but fell victim to urban blight in the 1980s. The anchor tenants left and were replaced by the likes of a furniture liquidator, which in turn went out of business. The once-proud Tryon Mall, with its two red pagoda-like entrances, was either abandoned or nearly abandoned. The parking lot filled with potholes and the place belonged to dealers and gangs.

As I understand it, in 1999 two Asian-American sisters bought the old Tryon Mall and reincarnated it as the Asian Corner Mall. Aside from its now-active parking lot and people, mostly Asian-Americans, streaming in and out of the entrances, the Asian Corner Mall still looks a bit like an abandoned mall. Little has been done to repair the parking lot or spruce up the interior. But where before there were abandoned stores, now there are Asian restaurants, supermarkets (two of them) and shops. Current tenants range from the Dragon Court Restaurant and Hong Kong BBQ to International Supermarket and New Century Market.

It seems that there's a large Vietnamese clientele. I've heard that Tet is a real scene at the Asian Corner Mall, and there's a terrific banh mi shop inside where you can also get sugarcane juice and interesting dried fruits (an acquired taste I haven't acquired). I don't recall the name of the shop.

My visit was brief -- I didn't eat at any of the restaurants, and just briefly surveyed the two supermarkets -- but I hope to get back there.

Let the topic start.

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I think, I just think that rings a bell from my years at UNC-Charlotte (the mall is probably a 5 minute drive from campus)

I'll have to make a swing by and make sure I have the right place in mind before I comment further, but I do distinctly remember thinking it was mostly nonfunctional, up till i headed there as a destination, not merely passing by.

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Steven, since the visit you made was with me, do you want information from me or do you prefer to hear from others? The Observer has written a number of stories over the years. The three sisters -- Mimi, Ivy and Megan Nguyen -- were members of a family that had a small market, Viet My, on Central Avenue. The market wasn't big enough to support that many families, so when the sisters grew up, they started the larger project to open the International Supermarket. I can steer you toward good sources to interview. Mary Hopper with the development group University City Partners knows a lot about it. Tom Hanchett of the Levine Museum of the New South also would be a good source.

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I am going back there this weekend to pick up stuff. so I can give you better description after that.

But the parking lot in that mall is horrible. It just needs to be completely bulldozed over and redone, there are so many potholes and crud.

I enjoyed Dragon Court. They're not great Chinese food, but they're probably one of the best authentic Chinese food you can get in Charlotte. The waiters I have had there have always been extremely polite to me. I may be slightly biased on the waiters, since they spoke Cantonese and I had not been able to find many Cantonese speakers in Charlotte.

The markets I can comment on this weekend, since I will be swinging on by there.

The one Vietnamese restaurant I tried in that mall. I can honestly say was the most horrible, nasty, disgusting Vietnamese food I had ever experienced. I'll get the name for it this weekend. It may have been an off day for them, but everything we ordered was horrible.

From the spring roll (goi cuon) - shrimp was way past its prime, Bun bo hue (spicy beef noodle soup) - the bowl looked like slop, and the meat was sour, to the Noodle soup w/ pig feet (I forgot the Vietnamese name) - it looked like slop, and every piece of the pig feet had hair all over it.

All in all a very horrible experience. Enough of the rant. I'll try to take some pictures this weekend of the mall, and post it.

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The one Vietnamese restaurant I tried in that mall.  I can honestly say was the most horrible, nasty, disgusting Vietnamese food I had ever experienced.  I'll get the name for it this weekend.  It may have been an off day for them, but everything we ordered was horrible.

The good news is that there is some fairly good Vietnamese food to be had in Charlotte. A few short years ago I was spending a fair amount of time in Charlotte and used to drive by the Asian Corner Mall regularly but never had any reason to go in. But I ate in a few Vietnamese restaurants on other parts of town and found the food to be fresh and decent. Not as good as what I get here in Syracuse or parts of North Jersey but close to as good as the better Vietnamese places in NYC's Chinatown.

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Mary Hopper with the development group University City Partners knows a lot about it. Tom Hanchett of the Levine Museum of the New South also would be a good source.

Excellent. I'm going to pursue one or both of them. I'll report back with anything I learn.

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So I've collected some additional information about Asian Corner. First, Kathi Purvis sent me two articles from the Charlotte Observer archive (these are not available on the public website so I can't link to them).

The first article, by Stella Hopkins, from 15 February 1999, is titled "WHEN 3 SISTERS TACKLED A START-UP, EVEN BUREAUCRATS PITCHED IN TO HELP." It indicates, among other things, that sisters Mimi, Ivy and Megan Nguyen opened the International Supermarket in the Asian Corner mall in January of 1999, and the grand opening of the mall itself was two months later. This happened only after more than a year and a half of renovation delays, including a flood caused by Hurricane Danny. The story, told at length in the article, of how hard the family worked to get the mall up and running is really inspiring.

The second article, by Kathi Purvis, is from 21 January 2004, five years into the mall's operations. It's titled "COMPETITION GROWING AT ASIAN CORNER." The occasion of the story was the opening of the New Century supermarket, which is the other large Asian market (also owned by Vietnamese Americans: the Quach family) in the mall. Purvis described it as "bigger and fancier than International, with rows of fish tanks, a meat department and plans for a deli with takeout meals."

I also had lengthy email correspondence with Mary Hopper of University City Partners and Tom Warshauer from Charlotte's Economic Development Office. One interesting thing I learned, in terms of why the parking lot is such a mess, is that Asian Corner is not the entire mall -- it's just the central section of the property. The other sections are under different ownership. As Mary Hopper explained it, "The left side, the middle (Asian Corners), the right side and various outparcels all have complicated cross easements and competing ownership interests. These owners have not been able to agree on how to divide costs associated with

maintaining the parking lots and driveways."

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