University of Iowa

In the news: Old Capitol mall becomes hub for Asian students

January 30th, 2017
A line extends around the corner of Seoul Grill at Old Capitol Town Center in Iowa City on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. Several of the businesses in the mall are owned by Asian-Americans, which has created a business microclimate unique in Iowa. (Rebecca F.

A line extends around the corner of Seoul Grill at Old Capitol Town Center in Iowa City on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. Several of the businesses in the mall are owned by Asian-Americans, which has created a business microclimate unique in Iowa. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

By Erin Jordan, The Gazette

IOWA CITY — The day her new Asian specialty food store is scheduled to open in the Old Capitol Town Center, Hao Yang peers at food labels, agonizing over the proper English translations that may help American customers feel comfortable trying something new.

“Mostly in Asian stores, you can’t see many English terms — especially the correct terms,” said Yang, 20, who is opening Asia+ with two fellow University of Iowa students, Ningshuang Zhao, 23, and Mingyang Li, 20, all natives of China. “I don’t blame the other stores, but I expect us to try harder.”

Asia+, an airy store with colorful wares displayed on open shelves, is the newest of a host of businesses launched in the downtown Iowa City mall that cater to Asian students, faculty and community members. This business microclimate that includes Korean, Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese restaurants draws hundreds of Asian students over a weekday lunch hour.

“I feel a sense of home there,” said Jintao He, a University of Iowa junior from the Jiangsu province of China who is majoring in finance, mathematics and computer science.

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