Walking into Kun Heng Supermarket—dubbed KH Market by locals of this central Long Beach neighborhood—one is welcomed by a fragrant wall of pan-Asian delights, many distinctly Cambodian.
Akao tnout, a muffin-like yellow pastry with its sweet, has hefty wafts of coconut and palm sugar; anksom jak, a dessert of sweetened rice and coconut milk wrapped in a banana leaf; and anksom sach chrouk, the savory brother of jak that consists of sticky rice is mixed with peppers, pork belly and mung bean. The scents not only welcome but announce KH as a valuable resource for locals, an essential cog in assuring the everyday lives of the Khmer community are filled with those things they need to feel a sense of place, of home.
And there’s one other thing that will greet you at KH these days: a petition.
“SAVE KH MARKET From Being Erased From Cambodia Town.”
The petition references a notice the market’s current owners received that has left them, and many in the Cambodian community, alarmed about the market’s future. The notices posted outside the market on November 25 announce a hearing to discuss the possible demolition of their building. The notice arrived shortly after the business received a mailer on Nov. 20 and just two weeks before the property owner faces approval for the Planning Commission this Thursday to demolish the buildings in the small strip mall to make way for a multi-tenant property that would include a drive-thru.
“There was no mention from the property owner at all about their plans,” said head owner Bondara Pang. “Someone from the property management company that oversees our building and our neighbors’ building finally approached us last Friday [Nov. 30]. They pulled me aside and said that I should be at the Planning Commission meeting because it was to likely affect my business.”
While Pang and his family are searching for possible agreements in the lease that the demolition would violate, the fear of displacement and oncoming gentrification is at the forefront of Pang’s concerns given that the plans for the new buildings completely exclude a shop of their size.
“There are two really important things here,” Pang said. “This strip’s location is so important for us as a business and community. If this building does get demolished and we are unable to stay on Anaheim, there is just no way we could make another location work, at least in any sense of profit.
“Also important is that we want to let other businesses know that, well, gentrification is real. It’s legal. And you have to be prepared for it because it will blindside you. We were completely blindsided.”
Though the market has been passed on through different owners over the years—Pang and his family have owned it for the past 12—the market itself has “been here from the beginning,” said Cambodia Town resident and advocate Prach Ly.
Pang plans on attending the Dec. 6 Planning Commission meeting along with other supporters. He and his family have tried to gather supporters through social media pushes, asking people to speak out against the demolition while also gathering signatures in the hopes that the hundreds of Cambodians that depend on their store won’t be turned away in the near future.
“KH Market has been an ethnic community supermarket for decades,” said Cambodia Town resident Laura Som. “I’ve shopped here all the time while being a resident of Long Beach for 26 years. [Those behind the demolition are] disregarding how it would affect the diversity of this community and, more directly, its Cambodian residents. It’s a sad news for all of us.”
Kun Heng Supermarket is located at 915 E. Anaheim St.
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