Lee Lee Oriental Supermart (Image by Clifford Chen)
Owner Meng Truong (Source: http://www.azcentral.com/community/peoria/articles/2008/04/25/20080425gl-peomarket0418-ON.html)
Lee Lee Oriental Supermart, located on the northeast corner of Dobson and Warner, is one of Arizona’s biggest Asian supermarkets. The proprietor Meng Truong is a Cambodian native. His journey to the United States started when he fled from his home country because of famine and genocide due to the Khmer Rouge. He spent two years in a Thai refugee camp before being granted permission to immigrate in 1981. Meng Truong’s initial grocery store opened in 1992 near Mesa Community College. He sold only Asian foods during his initial opening. As his grocery store gained more popularity, he expanded his variety of products and moved to the current day Chandler location in 1998.
From the beginning Lee Lee Oriental Supermart has had a specific consumer group, Asian immigrants. Meng Truong is quoted saying, "By the time we opened, by word of mouth, people know that 'Oh, Lee Lee opened, they bring a lot of food from back home.' ". In this he captures how many Asian immigrants have not had a reliable way of obtaining foods from their home countries. The location of Meng Truong’s Oriental supermarket is, by no coincidence, located in the Asian ethnoburb of Chandler. Wei Li defines an ethnoburb as “A new type of suburban ethnic concentration area, ethnoburbs occupy a unique position in the contemporary socioeconomic and political fabric…” (Li, 42) The concentration of ethnic Asians in Chandler has virtually doubled between the 2000 census and the 2010 census. (4.3% in 2000 to 8.2% in 2010.[3, 4] )
With the growth of the Asian community in Chandler, comes the expansion of markets catering to them. As an ethnic minority becomes more visible, the ethnic businesses become more prosperous and attract a wider range of new immigrants as residents and workers. (Li,42) It can therefore be argued that Lee Lee Oriental Supermart has had a helping hand in creating the ethnoburb in Chandler.
In the 1980’s, a new wave of Asian immigrants settled in the Greater Phoenix area. This new-wave of Asian settlers would also help create the Chandler ethnoburb. Many of these immigrants were from Taiwan, Hong-Kong, and mainland China; they also came highly educated and trained unlike the most of the earlier immigrants who had come uneducated and poor. These highly trained professionals were employed by companies such as Honeywell, Intel, and Motorola. They earned a higher income and had the option of moving to the suburbs and skipped the traditional minority ghettoes that many first-wave immigrants had to endure.
With the growth and expansion of the Chandler ethnoburb comes more international economic development, and the formation of a “global outpost and racialized place”. The implications of this have yet to be seen and are expected to impact the social and economic structure around the Chandler area.
- Clifford Chen, Monika Barton, and Emily Cano
1. Chan, Amanda. (2009, June). Lee Lee becomes an ethnic-foods hub. The Arizona Republic. Retrieved Oct. 29th, 2011, from http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/arizonaliving/articles/2009/06/29/20090629leelee0629.html
2. Li, Wei. Ethnoburb: The New Ethnic Community in Urban America. (2009) Print.
3. Chandler, Arizona. (2011, October 5). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved October 30, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Chandler,_Arizona&oldid=454153068
4. City of Chandler, Community Profile and Demographics, http://chandleraz.gov/default.aspx?pageid=724
5. Luckingham, Bradford. Minorities in Phoenix; A Profile of Mexican American, Chinese American, and African American Communities, 1860-1992. 1994.
6. “Ethnoburbs. Arizona PBS. (April 19th, 2011) Retrieved 10/30/11 from http://www.azpbs.org/video/play.php?vidId=3188
7. Li, Wei. Building Ethnoburbia: The Emergence and Manifestation of the Chinese Ethnoburb in Los Angeles’ San Gabriel Valley. Journal of Asian American Studies. 1-28 1999.