"The Chinese have developed businesses in their own communities for years but no one else knew about them. A lot of Chinese people prefer not to be low profile but not be high profile either."
The increasing prevalence of the Asian community could spell prosperity or obsolescence for the Asian merchant, depending on whom you ask.
Kay Lee, owner of Mann Oriental Food Plaza in Ellicott City, figured her idea for a Korean restaurant would work better in Howard County than in Mondawmin Mall in Baltimore, where she owns a convenience store.
"A lot of Asians live here or around here," Lee said, standing beside a menu that offers Soon-Doo-Boo in English and Korean. "The people here have more of a taste for Korean food than most of the people in Baltimore. Here we have a better chance [to thrive.]"
But unless immigrant families can instill a greater sense of heritage in the next generation, Shin said, Asian specialty markets will be absorbed by superstores that appeal to a broader clientele.
"We have families who have language barriers communicate from one generation to the next within the same household," he said. "The things the young people are interested in are not the same things the older people are interested in. The younger people want to be like everybody else, the non-Asians. If they continue to feel like that, it will be the death of places like this [the minimall.]"