Asian Food Mart, a Filipino bakery and a Chinese family restaurant share their culture with the food they cook, bake and sell in the East Texas community.
TYL, TX – Editor’s note: The video above is from 2019.
Asia Minor and Pacific Heritage Month is a one-month celebration in May to recognize the historical and cultural impact that the Asian and Pacific Island communities have had on the United States.
As it seems to be coming to an end, let’s highlight some local Asian businesses that are influencing the East Texas community.
Kabayan Asian Food Store
Ramil Cleof and Ramon Navarro own Kabayan’s Asian Food Mart at 6004 S Broadway Ave in Tyler. Both are from the Philippines who came to work in the United States as medical technologists.
With the growth of the Asian community in East Texas, the need for Asian products has become in demand.
“Seeing the Asian community growing here in Tyler and East Texas, we decided to set up an Asian store,” Navarro said.
Cleof and Navarro decided to open an Asian store so that people would not have to drive two hours to Dallas.
“Every time we needed something, we asked our friends ‘who was going to Dallas’ just to buy rice or another item,” Cliof said. “We didn’t know how to run a business, but all we knew was that we needed one here in Tyler.”
Since opening in 2013, Kabayan Asian Food Mart has continued to provide a variety of Asian products to its customers in East Texas and Louisiana. They even sell Filipino products that you can’t find in Dallas, so people are looking to shop at their exclusive product store.
“The idea was to open a store so that we don’t just sell most Filipino products, we want to sell products for all nationalities, so we ask everyone to tell us what products they need so we can get these items for them,” Cliof said. .
Cleof and Navarro welcome the community to shop at their store and try new products so they can test their culture.
“We want to expose them to our food and our lifestyle. “Asians are ordinary people and I think one of the ways to get them to experience our culture is through food,” Navarro said.
Kabayan Asian Food Mart has a lasting impact on their customers and the community by providing customer service that sets them apart from other stores.
A customer who moved to Dallas and returned to visit said, “I miss the customer service that Kabayan Asian Mart provides to their community. I think what sets them apart is that they are very hardworking, persistent and the customer service they provide is always from the heart. ”
Cleof and Navarro hope that their store will continue to serve not only the Asian community, but also the East Texas community for many years to come.
“You just don’t start a business just to make money, you start a business whose main concern is to serve the community,” Clioff said.
Lourdes Marie Bakery
Juna Roberts owns Lourdes Marie Bakery at 119 W Front Street, near Tyler’s downtown. She moved from the Philippines to work in medicine in the United States and has lived in Tyler for 24 years.
In 2015, she took a leap of faith and quit her job as a medical technologist to focus on her family and baking.
“I quit my job because I am family-oriented and I felt I had to be there for my daughters, who were young at the time. “I continued my hobbies of cooking and baking and getting orders,” Roberts said. “There was a moment when I realized that I needed help and I wanted to comply with the Ministry of Health, because I was baking in my house and I have dogs at home. And I think it was the perfect time to open a bakery because my girls were going to college. “
Lourdes Marie Bakery offers a variety of items such as drinks, cookies, pastries, cakes and special Filipino desserts that you can’t get anywhere else.
“We have bread and pastries that no one else has, such as mango, tarot and durian cakes,” Roberts said. “Some dessert ingredients have Filipino products, so they taste different. I try to bake as close as possible to authentic Filipino desserts.”
Although it offers authentic Filipino desserts, Roberts says Lourdes Marie Bakery is not a 100% Filipino bakery, as it sells items that are not considered Filipino, such as cookies and some cake flavors.
“I have clients asking me for a German chocolate cake and it is not Asian, but I can bake it. My principle is that I don’t want to limit myself because I can do it, “Roberts said.
Roberts believes her Filipino culture has influenced the success of her bakery.
“Through my culture, I learned to be hardworking from my parents. I believe I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them. “In Filipino culture, we sacrifice to give to our children,” Roberts said. “My mother was the first person to teach me how to bake and cook. She was my mentor and teacher, and I had the feeling that the memories came back when I opened this bakery. ”
Robert’s mother taught her many special Filipino recipes, which she continues to bake in her bakery and maintains her legacy present every day through the name of her bakery.
“Lourdes was my mother’s name, and Marie was my husband’s grandmother’s name, and they both loved to cook,” Roberts said. “They are also the middle names of my daughters. So when I asked for a name, I wanted to dedicate the name of the bakery to them and continue the legacy she taught me.
As Lourdes Marie Bakery’s orders grow, so does the impact it has on the community, not just the Asian community, but the East Texas community as well.
“It’s not what I order, it’s what she does for the children we teach at Caldwell Academy of Fine Arts. She witnessed a performance at the academy and was so impressed and so confident in the school that she wanted to donate snacks to our after-school program. She started doing this earlier this week. And for the goodness of his heart he charges us nothing. We are forever indebted and these children absolutely love the desserts he makes, because of the love he puts into every piece he bakes, ”said a local customer while taking a special order from the bakery.
For Roberts, she loves to share her Filipino culture through the desserts she bakes, and believes it’s important to get to know different cultures.
“Everywhere you look today, the tide of protectionist sentiment is flowing. It can open your minds to other people’s culture and teach you to respect where they came from, ”Roberts said.
Rice Cafe in the beginning
Aaron Tang is the owner of Poch’s Rice Café, located at 1700 S SE Loop 323. He says they provide the best egg rolls in Tyler.
Tang is from Taiwan / China, but moved to Nacogdoches at 14 to help his uncle with a local Chinese restaurant.
“It was a difficult transition because the education system is different. When I came here, it was March, so I had to stay in 9th grade again. “I learned English this year and then it got easier,” Tang said.
In 2001, his father moved their family to Tyler, where he opened his own Chinese restaurant. His father retired and sold the restaurant, but in 2015 Tang opened his own Chinese restaurant.
“The cafe has been operating for 6 years. We were slow at first, but we started getting more customers by word of mouth, “Tang said.
From his culture, Tang learned many valuable lessons, which he applied in his restaurant.
“My parents taught me to work hard and responsibly,” Tang said. “You have freedom, but you have responsibilities that you must fulfill first.”
Tang is proud of the food that Poch’s Rice Café serves to the community.
“We present our food differently, but we still show our culture by decorating our restaurant to appreciate Chinese art,” Tang said. “Our restaurant is more of an Americanized Chinese restaurant. We are a small town with few Asians, so we try to provide what our community likes. “
At a young age, Tang understood the importance of the family business as he grew up and worked in his uncle’s and father’s restaurants over the years.
“We are a family restaurant, so we make sure the quality of our food is always good. You order and we prepare it on the spot, “Tang said.
Tang says it’s important to lend a hand to your community in difficult times.
“As prices have risen due to inflammation, we are trying to provide quality food to our customers at a decent price,” Tang said. “If you pay in cash, we give you a small discount to help you in this difficult time. If you help us, we will help you. “
As for his Sino-Taiwanese heritage, Tang said he was proud of it and said it was important for others to know their heritage.
“It’s important to know about your heritage, because it’s important to know who you are,” Tang said. “I also think that today we should not focus too much on where we come from, but we should all unite together, no matter what your background is. We all need to get together. ”
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