Hmong, Somali and Latino malls in Twin Cities devastated by economic effects of pandemic
The state Department of Employment and Economic Development is sorting through applications for $2.5 million in grants for operators of cultural malls, much of which could go toward forgiving rent for tenants.
Xue Lor has always relied on foot traffic to bring business to his electronics repair shop, Lor Imports, in Hmong Village in St. Paul.
Yet that slowed when nearby food vendors closed during the state-ordered shutdown. Even after businesses in the village started to reopen, Lor saw the clothing shop across from him struggle. The Hmong International Freedom Festival was canceled amid COVID-19 fears and elaborate dresses for the occasion went unsold.
The owner posted a “for sale” sign. Lor wondered if he’d have to follow suit.
“I am thinking if the rest of the year isn’t going so well, I may have to sell too because it’s very, very hard,” said Lor. The virus is unpredictable, he added, and “I don’t have the resources to weather anything major. The worst of the shutdown is over, but people aren’t coming back.”
Shopkeepers in the Twin Cities’ Hmong, Somali and Latino malls are trying to rebound after the pandemic wiped out several months of sales. Some are reducing hours, negotiating rent deferrals and applying for government aid. Even as customers are returning, more elders who once frequented the malls for services in their native language are staying home or spending less time out to protect their health.
And retailers are trying to cope with losing some of their busiest days of the year after not just the cancellation of the Hmong festival, which usually attracts shoppers from around the Midwest, but also the passing of Eid al-Fitr during the shutdown. The Muslim holiday typically draws huge crowds to the Somali malls to buy clothes and gifts, and women pay to have henna artists apply decorative dye in elaborate patterns over their hands and feet.
source star tribune