Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Mmmm.... Donuts.....

Dear Korean,

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 askakorean@hotmail.com.


  1. In my area, it's dental labs.

  2. All the Korean restaurants in Los Angeles seem to be owned by Koreans...

    Okay, yes, I admit it, I am a smart aleck. :D

    Koreatown here is so big and diversified that I can't think of any non-Koreatown business sectors that are dominated by Koreans. There might be some, but I don't know what they are.

    Come to think of it, though, there are quite a few Japanese restaurants and pho joints owned by Koreans.

  3. a lot of my family members run a gardening/landscaping business

  4. You guys have to say where you are!

  5. Southwest Michigan/northern Indiana.

  6. In Alaska, most of the food court restaurants are owned by Koreans.
    In Guam, it's mostly swapmeet businesses.

  7. In Orange County and Los Angeles, I notice a lot of dry cleaners, donut shops, sushi restaurants, and pho restaurants as being owned by Koreans.

  8. los angeles area: sushi restaurants, pho restaurants (less common), dry cleaners, asian pop style boba/tea/cafe shops, designer jean and low cost trend clothing manufacturing, cap and headwear, textile, wholesale fashion, liquor stores/convenience stores

    to varying degrees.

  9. grocery stores (h-mart, lotte), bakery shops, electronics, cutesy stores (mostly those dealing with the mashimaro and hello kitty boutiques); basically there are lil pockets here and there of just korean market stuff. this is mostly in fairfax & annandale, virginia. also in maryland you can find that shopping center in columbia/rockville area.

  10. In Baltimore we own liquor stores, dry cleaners, carry outs (but only chicken box, lake trout, and half & halfs) or a church... i didn't know Dallas had a lot of donut shops owned by Koreans... very interesting....

  11. In Northern VA(Annandale, Fairfax, Alexandria), Koreans are trying to "devour" small local food stores with H-Mart and Grand Mart by making it a one-stop-go.

  12. Seattle- teriyaki, sushi restaurants, dry cleaners.

  13. and of course...in Ohio, specifically(though I live in OC/LA area now) Koreans own all the black hair product places haha. Where women get their weave and styling products...it's usually owned by koreans.

  14. My wife has one of two Best Donuts shops in Ft. Worth. She learned the business from the other Best Donuts shop owner and moved out on her own. It will not make us rich, but it does bring in a steady stream of money.

  15. There is a whole documentary about Cambodians running donut shops in LA.


  16. Nice post!

    It's not exclusively Korean, but my hometown of Arlington (between Dallas & Ft. Worth) has hosted a growing Asian population. I found a story that says "sponsoring groups" plays a role.


  17. Also from around Arlington, Tx. There are a ton of Donut/Nail Salon/Dry Cleaner combos all over town.


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