Korean American businesses wonder why they've been singled out



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Posted on January 29, 2014 at 7:30 PM

A downtown high-rise is going through a major remodel, and two of its tenants say they're unfairly losing their leases.

The tenants are both long-time Korean American family owned businesses, and they wonder why they've been singled out.

Every weekday, Missy and Sung Bang make sandwiches at the Original Deli.

"My husband gets up at 3 o'clock in the morning, to bring everything here to start breakfast," said co-owner Missy Bang.

The couple moved here from Korea, took out a loan and bought this business seven years ago for $200,000.

"This is an American dream that we worked so hard for," said Missy. "We always been work work. Always been."

But then last month the Bangs received noticed from their new property owners. They were losing their lease. Their last day is February 7th.

"It is devastating," said Sung Bang, who also owns the deli. "Hard to describe. This is all I got. We just paid off business loan. I am 57 years old, this is kind of our retirement plan. We don't have medical insurance, nothing right?"

The Bangs soon learned one other business was also getting the boot. Paula Kim, another Korean-American business owner, says she's in the same situation with her gift shop, the Goodie Box. She declined to talk on camera, since she is still negotiating her departure with the property owners.

"So cold blooded," said Sung Bang. "It feels like discriminated [sic] to me."

The new owners of the historic Exchange building, Beacon Capital, say they starting a capitol improvement project with major renovations. They denied their decisions were racially charged and say one other business is also losing its lease. They claim they're working with the displaced tenants to find new locations, a claim that the Bangs deny.

Local civic organizations like the Korean American Coalition are getting involved. President Cheryl Lee says they are asking to meet with the property owners and are contacting the Attorney General's Office.

The Bangs says they've been told their space will be use to stage the construction.

Customers can see how a property might need to make changes, but they also sympathize with the small business owners.

"What's so troubling is the timing," said deli customer Andrew Pohlmann. "Usually when you do a renovation like this, you know months and months ahead of time."