The project is, on several levels, a legacy project. The property has been in our family for over 60 years. Through their hard work and determination, Wilce and Mitsi Shiomi were able to purchase the site in the late 1940s and establish Connors Furniture and Appliance Store that they ran for over 40 years. Upon their retirement, their daughter Sandra (who unfortunately passed away 5 years ago) and her husband Dennis Chinn took over the site and converted it into the Asian Plaza. Now Dennis, and their two sons, Nathan and Brian are undertaking the redevelopment of the site. Wilce passed away in 2000 but Mitsi is thriving at the age of 96. Nathan and Brian both have kids, so the project is very much a 4-generation personal legacy of the Shiomi-Chinn family.
Over the years, our family has had strong ties with the International District Community, as property owners and through active involvement in the community. Dennis parents, Andrew and Mary, maintained strong ties in the International District and were active in the Oak Tin family association, the Chinese Art Club, and the Gong Yick Investment Association. Andrew served as the president of all these organizations. In addition to being local business owners, Wilce and Mitsi were active in Nisei Vets, JACL and other local organizations. Our family’s involvement in, and commitment to, the CID community will continue through this project.
Our family history was also reflects the unfortunate history of Japanese-Americans on the west coast. Before the war Nihon-machi (Japan-town) was a thriving community within the Seattle International District, a short distance from our project site. The vacuum caused by Japanese-Americans being sent to internment camps and leaving their businesses and homes behind allowed economic forces to destroy Nihon-machi in Seattle. After the war, few internees returned to the ID because there was nothing left of what they had when they left. Wilce and Mitsi did return to start over, and by their determination and hard work, provided our generation the opportunity to continue their legacy through this project. By including Japanese-American businesses and architectural design elements in the redeveloped Asian Plaza, we hope to pay homage to Wilce and Mitsi, and to the thriving Japan-Town that existed before the war.
When the original Asian Plaza was established, a young Vietnamese-Chinese immigrant name Duc Tran asked to rent space for a grocery store. Viet Wah Supermarket became the anchor tenant and will be the anchor tenant in the new Asian Plaza. More importantly, from that beginning Duc has become one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the community. He has never forgotten his humble roots and is among the most respected community leaders in the region because he has always given back to the community. We are very pleased that Duc, along with his daughter Leeching, has agreed to take on a major role in this project. This project is very much a Tran family legacy as well.