Restaurants see drop in business, boost safety plans after salon attack

Bar and restaurant owners in the Asian Trade Center District, informally known in Dallas as “Old Koreatown” off of Royal Lane and I-35, are experiencing a drastic dip in sales after three women of Korean descent were injured in a shooting at Hair World Salon on May 11.

At a news conference the day after the shooting, Dallas Police Chief Eddie García said By the next day, García backtracked, saying, “It’s a hate crime.” The attack follows two previous drive-by shootings in the area since April 2022.

Since the most recent shooting, business owners said they noticed increased police presence. A mobile surveillance tower in Asiana Plaza, where Komart Marketplace and multiple Korean-owned businesses reside, is helping many feel safer. They hope the changes remain, and at least one bar and restaurant owner is preparing for the risk of violence by adding to his gun collection.

Jonathan Kim says business is down by nearly 70% at Gomonae Restaurant, which specializes in Korean stews, less than a half mile away from Hair World. Kim’s mother and uncle also work in the restaurant owned by his grandmother, Soon Ja.

The week after the shooting, the family talked to other nearby business owners and heard the same complaint: no customers.

The shooting was “a big scare for our family, as well,” Kim says, especially since his uncle was at Hair World hours before the assault occurred. Later, when Kim learned the crime was directed toward people of Asian descent, it was even scarier — “not for myself, but for my family running a business there. What if that guy had picked my grandma’s restaurant that day?”

Kim points out that in South Korea, guns are required by law to be registered and stored at local police stations. In general, guns are intimidating in the Korean community, he says.

“When I have Koreans visit, they always ask,’Do people get shot there?’Because that’s what they see in the news — gun violence. ”Kim’s usual reply until May 11 was:“ It happens, but never around here. ”

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Encore Family Karaoke owner Jin Shin poses for a portrait on Monday, May 23, 2022 at Encore ...
Encore Family Karaoke owner Jin Shin poses for a portrait on Monday, May 23, 2022 at Encore Family Karaoke in Dallas. (Shafkat Anowar / Staff Photographer)

Another business owner, Jin Shin, who owns Encore Family Karaoke and is co-owner of the DanSungSa Dallas location, is buying his third 9-millimeter pistol to protect his staff, customers, and fellow community members he’s worked alongside for over 20 years. The new gun he’ll buy this week will make a total of seven guns, including a hunting rifle, which he keeps in the case of an emergency.

“We’re not going to just sit on our butts and be scared. We’re preparing,” he says. “We’ve got to protect ourselves. This is Texas. We’re allowed to.”

Shin, a former US Marine, says that if the shooting had occurred in his shop, the perpetrator would’ve been shot.

“That’s the thing with these cowards, they never go somewhere they’ll be confronted. They go after women, like old ladies at Hair World,” he says.

Both of Shin’s establishments have experienced “a significant drop” in business since the May 11 shooting; he estimates sales have decreased by about 50% at DanSungSa.

The recent shooting isn’t the first time Shin’s restaurants have been affected by crime.

In 2020, police arrested and charged a man who was repeatedly breaking the windows of Korean-owned businesses in the area. He broke windows at DanSungSa three times, costing $ 700 each time, and was ordered by a judge to pay $ 780 in damages after serving a jail sentence, according to Shin.

“But that idiot is out of jail, and I haven’t seen a dime,” he says.

In addition to guns, Shin has 40 surveillance cameras at Encore Family Karaoke. “You just have to [have cameras]”He says.

Shin adds that his staff is worried, and now owners are faced with the task of reassuring their employees that they’ll be safe at work. He’s doing that by hosting crawfish boils, where his staff, friends and police newcomers are invited to join. “I don’t know how long it will last,” he says, speaking of the increased presence and surveillance tower, “but I hope it lasts forever.”

A Dallas Police Surveillance stand overlooks the parking lot of Hair World Salon on ...
A Dallas Police Surveillance stand overlooks the parking lot of Hair World Salon on Tuesday, May 17, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. Dallas Police arrested a man earlier this morning who is in connection to the shooting that occurred last week.(Rebecca Slezak / Staff Photographer)

Sung Kim, dubbed “the original ambassador of Old Koreatown” by D Magazine,, The original Korean barbecue restaurant opened in Richardson in 1979, and the second location has been operating on Royal Lane since 1986.

Sung Kim’s daughter, Caroline Kim, said all businesses are feeling a financial loss at this time.

She describes Koreatown as integral to Dallas’ economic and cultural landscape. Businesses in the area generate tens of millions of dollars in revenue, taxes, and tourism each year — “a conservative estimate,” she says. . ””

Caroline attended the safety town hall meeting hosted by the Dallas Police Department in the days after the shooting, but says she wants a “loud and clear” message from city, community, and civic leaders.

“We deserve and need strong condemnation from the highest levels against AAPI hate, so that our communities know and understand that our neighborhood is a safe, protected, and welcoming place to visit,” she says.

The FBI Dallas Division has recently said the number of hate crimes reported in Dallas does not coincide with the “deep fear” of Asian American communities across the nation.

As Jin Shin says, “I’m not Sherlock Holmes, but all indicators show it’s a hate crime.”

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Police stand outside Hair World Salon on Tuesday, May 17, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. Dallas ...
Police stand outside Hair World Salon on Tuesday, May 17, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. Dallas Police arrested a man earlier this morning who is in connection to the shooting that occurred last week.(Rebecca Slezak / Staff Photographer)

Beyond Koreatown

Asian Americans throughout Dallas-Fort Worth are feeling increased anxiety since the shooting, not just in Koreatown off of Royal Lane.

Sarah Park, owner of Korean Street Eats in Carrollton, instructed her staff about emergency safety protocols after the Hair World incident. She’s noticed a slight dip in business, and says she feels even more “on edge” now. It’s a feeling she’s had since the coronavirus pandemic began and xenophobic messaging from politicians escalated violence against Asian Americans.

She noticed a new police tower stationed outside of H Mart in Carrollton last week. “We feel fortunate that our corner in Carrollton is more highly patrolled,” she says, “but we feel heartache for our brothers and sisters who have businesses off Royal Lane. . ””

Justin Rojas, a Dallas-born Filipino American who works to promote anime and Asian American pop culture with his event, Nishi Fest, says he’s also feeling increased anxiety. He attended the food festival in Oak Cliff hosted by Asian Grub in DFDUB three days after He says he felt the need to have an emergency exit plan and experienced an increased awareness of his surroundings.

“I had thoughts I wouldn’t normally have… and I had to think of things that I normally wouldn’t.”

He attended the food festival and continues to patronize Koreatown restaurants since the shooting to show support for the “giant, unintentional community” created by Asian Grub in DFDUB. It’s a new sense of community he says did not exist when he was growing up.