Vang mourners' presence a boon to business

Effects of general's funeral ripple through local economy.

February 8, 2011 

Thousands of mourners gathering in Fresno since last week for the funeral of Gen. Vang Pao have been a boon to the local economy, business owners said Tuesday.

Restaurants, stores and hotels reported a noticeable spike in customers since the six-day funeral began Friday for the Hmong leader, who died Jan. 6 in a Clovis hospital at 81.

The funeral concludes this morning.

Sushi Hana, across the street from the Fresno Convention Center's New Exhibit Hall, the site of Vang's funeral, ran out of food and closed for lunch nearly an hour earlier than usual Friday, said Jin Hahm, who co-owns the restaurant with her husband, Jae Hahm.

The next day was even busier, she said.

"We've been here about 21/2 years and Saturday was the best sales day ever," she said.

Around the corner, Downtown Express, a convenience store with a pizzeria, has seen an increase in business of 35% to 40% since Vang's funeral began, owner Anthony Halim said.

He usually shuts his doors about 6:30 p.m., but he kept his store open until 9 p.m. Friday, he said.

Halim, who took over the store's ownership in early January, opened on the weekend for the first time Saturday and Sunday, a move that proved to be profitable.

"There was a steady stream of customers," Halim said.

About two blocks from the Exhibit Hall, Holiday Inn was booked full Tuesday night, said Melanie Marquez, director of sales.

Normal occupancy is soft from December until the World Ag Expo in Tulare, she said. However, the hotel has been close to full since out-of-towners began arriving for Vang's funeral last week, she said.

The reporter can be reached at ejimenez@fresnobee.com or (559) 441-6386.

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