Eden Prairie’s Asia Mall received a special visit from Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff and U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Isabella Guzman on Wednesday.
They were joined by Democratic U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips, who had just finished working a shift at the mall as part of his “On the Job with Dean” initiative.
The visit was hosted by Phillips and served as a stop on the Biden Administration’s National Small Business Week roadshow, which aims to recognize the contributions of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners.
Eden Prairie resident Michael Bui helped serve as one of the tour guides around the two-story mall, which opened late last year. He and his wife Mai own Pho Mai Vietnamese Bistro and Boba Tea and Mochi Donut cafe in the mall. (EPLN featured Michael and Mai Bui in a story when the mall was still under construction.)
Asia Mall’s 100,000 square feet of space at 12160 Technology Drive is a unique blend of Asian-themed grocery stores, restaurants, retail shops, and offices.
“It went terrific,” Bui said. “We’re just honored to have a special guest attend the Asia Mall and stop by our Pho Mai and try our mochi donuts made of rice flour. I think they liked the donuts a lot.”
Emhoff’s 45-minute afternoon visit to the mall brought a contingent of aides, Secret Service agents, and the media. His convoy of cars was parked outside the front doors, and there was a noticeable police presence of Secret Service agents and Eden Prairie police.
People continued to shop, although some stopped their carts to snap a photo or two. One older man asked what the commotion was. After being told, he shook his head. “Well, that’s unexpected,” before walking out of the mall.
“They toured the whole facility,” Bui said. “Minnesota never had something like this [Asia Mall], so it was great for others to see it.”
Bui said having Emhoff, Guzman and Phillips see the mall was an honor.
“As a small business owner, we never expect something like this,” he said. “Everybody was so down the earth. The staff was thrilled to see the second gentleman especially. They were taking selfies and all that.”
Bui said an SBA loan made his presence at the mall possible.
“Without that, that mall wouldn’t have been built,” he said. “My restaurant wouldn’t have been built. We all got SBA loans to fund the endeavor.”
Emhoff also visited several other Minnesota businesses on Wednesday. During his visit to Afro Deli & Grill in St. Paul, Emhoff praised small business owners for their hard work and dedication.
“It’s the American dream,” Emhoff said in an interview with KARE 11. “It’s the American success story. I myself was a small business owner in L.A. I had my own law firm and I know what it’s like to build something, make payroll.”
In April, Phillips and Guzman had teamed up for a roundtable discussion at Tierra Encantada in Minnetonka with small business owners and employee ownership advocates, a press release by Phillips touting the Asia Mall tour stated. Their joint efforts aim to promote employee ownership opportunities in businesses, with Phillips sponsoring legislation to assist small business owners who wish to switch to an employee-owned structure.
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