Thanks so much to Humans of New York!
Many thanks to Humans of New York (HONY) for the beautiful recent feature of Mr. and Mrs. Chen, and to Nicholas Heller, the "unofficial talent scout of NYC," for recommending Pearl River. The Chens and Pearl River President Joanne Kwong had a fun- and laughter-filled talk with HONY founder Brandon Stanton, relaying stories about the origins of the store.
From Mr. Chen:
People thought I was crazy to open a store. I had no business experience. I’d just gotten my PhD in chemistry. And there was a trade embargo with China, so there were no stores selling Chinese goods, even in Chinatown. But I was idealistic. I thought: ‘Maybe I can help connect our two countries. If I traded with China—just a little, maybe we would understand each other more.’ Technically it was smuggling. But the rules were very gray. And if you gave the Canadian border agent a little tip, nobody seemed to mind. I named the store ‘Pearl River,’ which is the biggest river in the Canton Province. I wanted to remind Chinese immigrants of their home. And I thought: ‘Nobody can hate a river.’
Read the rest of his story.
Thanks also to everyone who commented on the post. The Chens were so surprised and happy to read everyone's warm and wonderful memories of Pearl River. Mr. Chen said reading the comments makes him think his idea from 50 years ago is definitely on the right track!
Thanks again to Brandon, Nicholas, and everyone has supported and encouraged us. Come see us when you can!