I moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth area in 1990, and every little corner/strip mall donut store I've ever seen has been run by Koreans. I love them because they make the best donuts and pastries in the world, but what gives? My brother theorizes there is an unwritten law, like the one that all Chinese restaurant buffets must be a "Super Buffet", but I need an answer from an expert.
Dumb White Donut Lover
Dear Donut Lover,
It’s really easy to understand if you see it from the perspective of an immigrant. Korean immigrants are slightly different from the images of a typical immigrant. Very few Korean immigrants come to America with the idea of working as a manual laborer, as some Mexican immigrants would, for example. Korean immigrants generally have been well off in Korea, and they immigrate with a certain amount of capital, set to run a business.
But what business? They are now in a different country, and there is little chance of financially bouncing back if they blow their nest egg. In this situation, the safest thing to do is to do what other Koreans do. If one Korean person is successful in running a certain business, it is relatively easier for another Korean to gather information about how that person succeeded. (Compared to, say, getting information about a successful business from non-Koreans over the linguistic and cultural hurdle.)
The result of this imitation, over time, is that a particular sector of business tends to be dominated by Koreans. This phenomenon is not unique to Koreans. Ever wondered why so many South Asians drive a cab or tend a convenience store? It’s the same process.
Another interesting thing is which industry immigrants take over entirely depends on the city. Of course there are some nationwide phenomena, like Korean laundromats. But New York City, for example, has a ton of Korean delis and nail salons, but it is harder to see Korean delis and nail salons in other cities. Koreans tend to own many Baskin-Robbins around Seattle area; fruits and vegetables wholesalers around Washington D.C. area, etc. So it is not entirely surprising that Koreans took over donut stores in Dallas-Ft. Worth. It is a small, manageable business that requires only a little bit of skill.
Has anyone noticed any “Korean business cluster” in other U.S. cities? The Korean would be delighted to know.
Got a question or comment for the Korean? Email away at email@example.com.