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 The plaza near 14 Mile and John R roads is home to small businesses such as 168 Asian Mart, Fuji Buffet and 168 KTV Bistro. The owners of these three businesses have made it a point to give back to the community.

The plaza near 14 Mile and John R roads is home to small businesses such as 168 Asian Mart, Fuji Buffet and 168 KTV Bistro. The owners of these three businesses have made it a point to give back to the community.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Giving thanks to small businesses in Madison Heights, Hazel Park

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published November 14, 2018

MADISON HEIGHTS — Ever since its ribbon-cutting in June 2015, countless people have passed through the doors of 168 Asian Mart, showing demand for authentic Asian goods and supporting the sprawling grocery store that includes a food court, a café and more.

But even before its grand opening, owners Ricky Dong and Cindy Wang — the same married couple who also own Fuji Buffet and 168 KTV Bistro, all in the same plaza at the southwest corner of 14 Mile and John R roads — have made it a point to share their success with others.

“It’s very simple,” Dong said in an interview Nov. 10, sitting on a plush sofa in a karaoke room at 168 KTV Bistro. “We make money from our community, so we want to give back. If someone needs our help, of course we’ll just help. If someone wants to set up a fundraiser, we try to provide a place to do so. Or if they want to get the word out (about a good cause), we will let them do that here.”

Indeed, when Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote wanted to register voters for the midterm elections, it was allowed to do so at 168 Asian Mart. When donations were sought for Real Men Wear Pink — a monthlong initiative in October to raise funds for breast cancer research — Dong’s son suggested 168 Asian Mart as well. With the staggering number of people always coming and going, it’s an ideal place to reach a large crowd.

“We have a very good relationship with (Madison Heights) City Hall and the leaders here since we do a lot of fundraising, and we help many people in the area,” said Wang.

Dong and Wang have also made charitable donations to Gleaners Food Bank, and sponsored community events such as the Around the Globe in Madison Heights Taste Festival and the Southend Downtown Development Authority’s Art Challenge. They have also reinvested in the city, snapping up additional properties, including one next to 168 KTV Bistro, which will be transformed into a Korean barbecue and hot pot in the near future.

All of this is in addition to the 100-plus jobs they already generate between three businesses, and the revenue they bring into the city. Local officials say that small businesses like these are invaluable to the communities in which they’re located, not only economically but culturally as well, giving the city its own identity with goods and services you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.

“The big box chains are everywhere, but they don’t define a community. However, when you have a small entrepreneurial mom-and-pop shop — a destination-type location with an owner who’s longstanding and may live around here and employ residents, students and recent grads — those are the ones you meet up with on weekends, developing a relationship with them on a first-name basis,” said Linda Williams, the economic and community engagement supervisor for Madison Heights.

Keri Valmassei, executive director of the Madison Heights/Hazel Park Chamber of Commerce, said that small businesses are often the first to support local sports teams and charitable events with sponsorships and donations. And the people they employ also support other businesses in the area.

“People generally live within 30 minutes of their jobs. However, our communities also benefit from employees who may not live in Madison Heights or Hazel Park,” Valmassei said. “These people still have to eat, right? And get gas and run errands. And where do they do this? In our cities!

“Small business fits the needs of the few,” she continued. “All our custom retailers offer something you can’t find anywhere else. Whether it’s crystals or cookies, local small business can take care of you.”

Added Williams: “It’s more of a feeling, and that is what makes small business great. You just can’t put that value into dollars. I know they create jobs and revenue for the city, where every dollar you spend there translates to more support for the community. But the feeling is what’s truly important — the sense of identity with the community.”

Saturday, Nov. 24, is Small Business Saturday, a campaign that encourages shoppers to support local small businesses.