Two stores in the heart of Chinatown are set to close amidst rifts with landlords and rising rent prices, inconveniencing many of their local customers.

G&G closes Monday after serving the community for over 12 years. Ai Hoa will close at the end of this year, after a strong presence in the community for over three decades.

After news of the stores’ imminent closures reached people in Chinatown, community members began rallying together in support of their two favorite local grocery stores. As of Monday afternoon, over 735 people had signed a petition demanding that the landlords keep both markets in place “as affordable community-serving grocery stores.”

Last week, the Chinatown Community for Equitable Development (CCED) posted a long memo on Facebook about saving these two markets — along with a link to the petition and an LA Times article -- blaming gentrification for the closures.

“For Chinatown’s last two remaining full-service grocery stores to close down because wealthy property owners like downtown developer Tom Gilmore and B.I.G. Group LLC raise rents, serve unjust eviction notices, refuse to continue leases, and favor luxury development and trendy hip businesses,” the post reads. “That’s ALL a direct result of gentrification.”

On Monday, G&G’s last day, the store remained packed. About 50 people filed in within the hour, many elderly Chinese people, who either live nearby, or have since moved away and still come to the store for its affordable prices.

Located on New High Street – just one street east of Broadway – the corner store, with its brick wall, apartment-style second floor and faded signs missing multiple letters, might be easy to miss. But for many it had become a staple of Chinatown and a routine stop for many.

But Monday was different. What was once a store filled with a variety of both general and specifically Asian goods is now empty, for the most part. Shelves are barren and refrigerators hold the very last of each product, mostly sauces, vegetables and sodas.

One customer, Yau Fei Hung, said that she comes to this market because she can only buy certain Chinese foods here. Hung moved from Chinatown to Pasadena about a year ago.

“There is no market like this in Pasadena,” she said in an interview in Mandarin.

She only just found Monday out the market is closing, and the news seemed to shock her.

G&G’s owner, Zau Hua Su said he’s being forced to evacuate over issues that arose about the trash bins located in the parking lot behind the market.

“The landlord told me I have to move. That’s why we move,” he said.

He said his next steps involve looking for employment.

“I have to find a job,” he said. “I’m working. Keep going, working. We need to take a break and then find a job.”

Ai Hoa Market in Chinatown. (Photo by Natalie Redington)
Ai Hoa Market in Chinatown. (Photo by Natalie Redington)

Ai Hoa, located just a four-minute drive away from G&G, has more diverse offerings, and caters to a larger set of customers of various ethnicities.

Ai Hoa is set to close at the end of this year due to higher rent prices from landlords, which the store owners said they can’t afford.

Some Ai Hoa customers said they gravitate toward the store for its affordable prices.

“It’s cheap, you know? And they’re so nice to their customers,” Miguel Angel Torres, a regular shopper, said when asked why he returns to the store.

Like Hung, he didn’t know his favorite place to shop was scheduled to close.

“I come right here just to get a quick meal everyday,” he said. “I’m local. It takes me like five minutes to walk. I’ve been around here my whole life, since I was a kid.”

He said that this would affect everything, more specifically his routine and budget.

“Other places are more expensive,” Torres said.

Manop “Max” Surya, a Chinatown resident and frequent Ai Hoa customer, heads there once a week because it is close to his home. He said that if Ai Hoa closes down, he’ll have to trek to Monterey Park, over eight miles away, for his groceries.

For Diane Hang, Ai Hoa’s bookkeeper, the end is not sweet, just bitter.

“We tried to stay and help the community here but the problem with the new owner didn’t help us, so we have no choice,” Hang said in an interview. “The best part about working at Ai Hoa is the customers. We’re going to miss them a lot.”