Culture: Full-contact Shopping

On a formerly seedy stretch of Harry Hines Boulevard, North Dallas women are battling for baubles and handbags at Sam Moon Trading Company. Little do they know, the man behind the store has changed the landscape of the neighborhood.

Founded as a wholesale business in 1984 by Korean
immigrant David Moon, the store has since expanded three times. He
turned the business over to his sons Sam (the store’s eponym) and
Daniel in 1990. In 1992, Sam decided to open his doors to the general
public; now his business is 40 percent retail. As it has grown, Sam
Moon Trading Company has attracted other, similar businesses. The
corner of Harry Hines and Royal, once dominated by places such as
Kamille’s Nude Modeling, Janitor’s World, Trailer Sales, and other
fringe businesses, has now become the thriving center of an Asian
shopping district. Sam Moon has changed the landscape and leasing
prices of seedy Harry Hines, and the man behind the store has become an
institution as venerable to many as Mr. Stanley himself.

The density of the
Asian-owned businesses has made this a desirable, high-traffic
neighborhood, even as other traditionally successful retail centers in
the area are struggling. In fact, it’s hard to find empty space anymore
on these blocks of Harry Hines. Parking is a problem, and in the past
few years, the city has widened the street at this intersection to
accommodate the traffic. Walking store to store is a hike and requires
stepping over a railing beside a dumpster. When I cruised the shops, I
walked past two women moving a mountain of cardboard cartons that had
been piled behind their SUV while they were shopping. Dallas police
patrol the area regularly, and there was a Dallas Police Department van
parked on the street outside Sam Moon—the force is bused in at holiday
time for security.

With all the increased
traffic, the property on this formerly questionable stretch of Harry
Hines has increased in value. The area is now home to 100
wholesale/retail shops, owned mostly by Chinese, Indian, and Korean
entrepreneurs, as well as nearly 150 other Korean-owned businesses. In
January, Sam took the next big step. He didn’t just expand his store;
he moved down the street to anchor his own shopping-center venture: Sam
Moon Center.

His new
51,000-square-foot, wholesale-retail center at the southwest corner of
Harry Hines and Forest Lane has been fully leased since a couple of
months after space became available two years ago. In contrast to the
cobbled-together strip mall where the store was before, the new center
has all the amenities of a modern, high-end shopping center. And it
leases for an appropriate price: $24.50 per square foot, all-inclusive.
That’s only slightly less than the price of prime retail space in
Plano. In general, lease rates in the neighborhood of Sam Moon run
between $18 and $24 a square foot, which, according to Sam, is
considerably out of proportion to the neighborhood.

Many of the smaller
businesses are satellites of Sam Moon Trading Company; three of the
store’s neighbors from the old space are moving to Sam Moon Center and
leaving their present stores open, even though that means their shops
will be only blocks apart. Sam says the rest of his tenants, including
Quizno’s, will be new to the area and will complement his own expanded
15,500-square-foot store: teen wear, a cell phone company, t-shirt
shops, sportswear, women’s dresses, gold and silver jewelry—all
bargain-oriented wholesalers or discounters.

And that’s not all. By 2003, Sam plans to open a store in Frisco.



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