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Chinatown bakery owner says Walmart wont impact business for a few years

By Ella Kidron
Published: Wednesday, August 01, 2012, at 02:50PM

Fresh baked goods at Wonder Bakery.

A new Walmart Neighborhood Store is slated to open in Chinatown and has caused concern among some residents and local-business owners but Chris Cheung, owner of Wonder Bakery, says for now all they can do is wait and see how their sales are affected.

“People will shop at Walmart," he said. "They have cheap prices that will impact the bakeries, grocers and pharmacies in the area,” said Cheung, who added that many of these businesses have less competitive prices than the retail giant.

Cheung estimates it will take one to two years from Walmart's opening in Chinatown to gauge its actual impact on local small business.

He said the aesthetic of Chinatown is another concern, as the Downtown neighborhood prides itself on maintaining its cultural influences and distinct Chinese features.

“Whenever Walmart comes in, people immediately worry about small business," Cheung said. "Sure, I think there may be an impact, but it is difficult to prepare for that. For now people are just waiting to see how it will affect them."

For most of the people who live in Chinatown, he said, the area serves as a stepping-stone from their country of origin to life in the U.S. Many neighborhood residents aspire to move to the San Gabriel Valley after they have earned enough money.

“It usually takes people between three to five years to earn enough money to move out of Chinatown,” said Cheung.

Cheung moved to Pasadena after his bakery became a popular destination for custom birthday cakes and Chinese sweet treats. He earned his bachelor's degree in Finance and Business Administration from California State University, Los Angeles after moving to the area from Hong Kong. His family took over the bakery from another family in 1985 and it has been bustling ever since.

Cheung mentioned that Chinatown’s increasingly popular art scene is helping to diversify the area even more. The lofts above Chung King road are host to numerous artists, both American and foreign-born.

“Tourists come to Chinatown to go to Chung King road, and to see the Chinese-style architecture – the roofs, lanterns, and the gate,” added Cheung.

He also said that Downtown locals come for dim sum, Chinese groceries and various trinkets sold in Chinatown’s outdoor shopping malls.

But is this just a one-way relationship?

“[The people that live here] don’t go into Downtown often because there isn’t anything Downtown that they need,” said Cheung. He added, “They’d prefer to go to Monterey Park to shop.”

Wonder Bakery is located at 943 North Broadway Los Angeles, CA 90012

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