'Main drag' is right spot for many ethnic businesses

Published: Thursday, Nov. 6 2003 9:35 a.m. MST

Anthony Limantzakis, left, stands with his father, Mike, and his sister, Anastasia, outside their family-owned Greek Market \\& Deli on State.

Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News

Like many foreign-born residents, Mike Limantzakis saw the hope for a better life and a better economy in Utah.

He found it on State Street.

Today, Limantzakis, his wife and three children own and operate Greek Market & Deli at 3205 S. State.

About 95 percent of the store's products are imported from Greece — everything from homemade pastries and olive oils to cheeses and Greek coffee. In the deli there are dolmathes, gyro sandwiches and souvlaki.

State Street is home to scores of similar successful, immigrant-owned businesses.

During the 1990s, the number of foreign-born residents in the state climbed for the first time since 1860. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one in 20 Utah residents today was born in another country.

Some of them can be found running businesses on State — from street-corner taco stands to specialty ethnic markets.

"I think they are there because of the accessibility to easier leases or easier rents," said Art Pina, president of the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. "State Street is the main drag. It's easy accessibility with buses. It's easy to find."

Typically, many of the street's small-business owners elect to raise their own capital, preferring not to finance their operations, according to Stan Nakano, district director of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

"They seem to be very resourceful about just being able to work hard and save the money until they can acquire the business assets or whatever it may be," Nakano said.

Carlos Roman worked construction jobs in order to save the $2,000 he needed to open La Pequenita at 1465 S. State.

"The beginning was really hard," said Roman, who was born and raised in Huancayo, Peru.

With products from 10 different Latin American countries, La Pequenita caters to Utah's expanding Latino community.

"We have customers that come from Bountiful, Clearfield, Layton, Logan, Idaho, Orem, Provo and Grand Junction, Colo.," he said.

Since opening the business five years ago, sales have picked up. This year Roman moved to a larger location in order to carry more products, including Mate teas from Argentina, Inca Kola from Peru and Venezuelan P.A.N., a pre-cooked corn meal product.

Down the street from La Pequenita is Ming's Oriental Health & Wellness Clinic.

Here, Chinese herbal medicines and acupuncture procedures are administered to relieve pain and treat depression, hypertension, insomnia and other health problems.

Dr. Minghua Zhang, who has run her business on State Street for the past five years, originally was a cardiologist in Jiangsu Province, China.

She came to Utah in 1992 as an international exchange physician to learn more about heart disease at the University of Utah. She planned to return to China within a year.

Instead, Dr. Ming, as her patients call her, started a thriving business and eventually obtained her U.S. citizenship. She never went back.

"People walk in because State Street is a busy street," she said. "It's a good location."


E-MAIL: danderton@desnews.com

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