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San Francisco Chinatown merchants welcome night market event as another step to recovery

Pleased by turnout, Chinatown organizers plan monthly night markets
Pleased by turnout, Chinatown organizers plan monthly night markets 02:23

SAN FRANCISCO -- Vendors in San Francisco's Chinatown hoped another night market event on Friday would bring needed attention and visitors to their neighborhood as it continues to recover from the pandemic more than four years later. 

The event modeled after markets in Asia saw large crowds last fall and in March, so organizers quickly decided to make it a monthly occurrence.

"I think it's important because you know the traffic in Chinatown is being quite slow in my opinion," said Max Huang, who runs By Me Boba Tea with his father. "In order to have a good business we need our, you know, people, tourists, to come to Chinatown, right? To eat, to shop, you know, to consume."

Huang opened the business which sells Taiwanese and Hong Kong-style milk tea right before the pandemic. It hasn't been easy for them given all the setbacks that came with COVID-19 but, in 2023, he saw the start of a decent flow of customers and growth for the business. 

"I think the night market is very good for the community. It's going to be bringing more people to Chinatown," said Abby Huang, another business owner in Chinatown whose family runs Gourmet Kitchen and House of Dim Sum. 

"After the COVID is little bit tough because a lot of changing, like the food cost and then it's hard to hire people. Yes it's still challenging."

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For some of these families, it isn't just a business district but a piece of home. The family that runs By Me Boba Tea immigrated to the U.S. from China and they see a part of where they are from each day they spend in the neighborhood.

"You know, the environment, the buildings the, you know, the decorations is very close to home, so we think, you know, it's very attached to us," Max Huang said.

The night markets are held on the second Friday of the month from 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. About 30 vendors  participated along Grant Avenue between Sacramento and Jackson.Organizer Lily Lo spent her afternoon getting the final pieces in place. She says vendors wish night market happened even more frequently.

"Oh they like it," Lo said. "They want me to do it every week. I can't do it. Once a month is good."

Lo says the market is exposing a new generation to San Francisco's Chinatown.

"Chinatown is a lot of low income and seniors and we don't have enough young people. They are the ones who spend money," Lo said. "So we like young people that spend money."

Eunice Lu was participating in her second night market. She says her business, Lady Luck Cafe, has already benefited.

"Just to help our business grow and have more exposure," Lu said.

People are introduced to the restaurant at the night market and then come back later.

All the vendors are from Chinatown businesses. Although night markets help every business, Lu says it's bigger than that.

"It gives us an opportunity to show more of our culture and to also again help our local economy," Lu said.

Lo has more vendors continuing to reach out to her for a spot at the night market but, with only three blocks, 30 vendors is her maximum, for now. Lo says she plans to apply for an extra two blocks for the May night market.

The booths currently at the market offer a variety of food, pastries and even some entertainment.

"We want people to come out and enjoy and have fun," Lo said.

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