Where Did the Korean Greengrocers Go? [City Journal]In the small space on 79th and York, the Kims sold fruit, vegetables, candy, cigarettes, “anything you could squeeze in,” Ron recalls. To compete with the Upper East Side’s other retail options, they sold their goods 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Seo Jun and Sunhee covered almost the entire 168-hour week.
But more recently, these stores have been vanishing. The Korean Produce Association reports that it has 2,500 members in the New York–New Jersey area, down from 3,000 a few decades ago. Pyong Gap Min, a professor of sociology at Queens College and author of Ethnic Solidarity for Economic Survival: Korean Greengrocers in New York City, puts the number in the greater New York City area much lower, at fewer than 1,500. The drop has been even more pronounced in neighborhoods like Harlem and Flatbush, where Korean-owned groceries, fish stores, and produce stands once flourished.
What happened? There are two stories behind the Korean greengrocers’ disappearance. One involves a changing New York economy over the last 20 years. The other, a particularly Korean saga, is a story of how immigration can work in America—a testament to how far these new Americans have come in a single generation.
Thanks to Edward K. for the article.