Little Mekong Night Market Brings Celebration of Community to University Avenue

If you haven’t yet had the opportunity, come visit us at the Little MeKong Night Market Aug. 16 and Sept. 6 from 5-10 p.m.

By Va-Megn Thoj, Asian Economic Development Association

August 12, 2014

On July 5th and July 26th the Asian Economic Development Association (AEDA) successfully launched the first two events of the Little Mekong Night Market with a focus on community. Attendees were treated to festive evenings of street food, entertainment, and arts and craft that brought people from all over the Twin Cities. And, the celebratory street market attracted a higher than expected number of visitors, resulting in higher earnings by our vendors.

Inspired from Southeast Asian night markets, the Little Mekong Night Markets (a total of five are planned for this summer) showcase the food, art, history and culture of the Little Mekong District of St. Paul. 

Little Mekong Night Market Sign

The Little Mekong District is an initiative of AEDA to support local businesses along the eastern end of University Avenue and to build economic and cultural assets along the Central Corridor. The Little Mekong business plan calls for special events such as the Night Market to attract visitors to Little Mekong and provide micro-entrepreneurs a low-risk business opportunity.

During the Little Mekong Night Markets, the streets at the Green Line Western Station Area come alive with pedestrian foot traffic. Although the area is still dominated by car traffic, groups of people getting off the new Green Line stroll to the Night Market and present a vision of what the Little Mekong District could be in the future.

Little Mekong Night MarketsAfter two Night Market events, the overall attendance is near 4,000 visitors. The average earning by food vendors per night is $1,020. The top gross earning for a vendor for one night was $3,100.

“It took us several years to get to the point where we could organize large-scale events to draw thousands of visitors to Frogtown – Summit University,” said Joo-Hee Pomplun, AEDA’s director of programs. “With the Night Market, we have proven we can attract a large and diverse group of people to spend leisure time and money in this neighborhood.”

David Simoukdalay, co-owner of Lao Thai Restaurant and one of the popular food booths at the Night Market, was surprised at the great sales. “We earned more in five hours than what we sometimes make in one day at the restaurant,” said Simoukdalay.

“This is a test run for us,” said Kia Kehrer, the Little Mekong Night Market Manager. “We wanted to keep it small, so we didn’t really know how many people would show up, to be honest. I didn’t think we could fit that many people into the tiny space we have. We definitely need a bigger space next year.”

A big draw of the Night Market has been the 2014 Little Mekong ArtWave, a series of artist-led projects managed by AEDA’s artist organizer Oskay Ly. In partnership with Twin Cities LISC “C4Ward” initiative and Springboard for the Arts’ Irrigate placemaking initiative, ArtWave has collaborated with two-dozen local artists to create participatory arts activities in Little Mekong.

Girls on Stilts with lights“Artists are overlooked economic producers and community makers,” said Oskar Ly. “The Night Market is a perfect venue for artists to engage, connect people, and contribute to the neighborhood economy through fun and creativity.”

“The Night Market not only offers unique and delicious street food for foodies everywhere. It’s also got a whole lot of entertainment and arts for everyone of all ages to enjoy and take part in,” said Kehrer.

Little Mekong Facebook page fan Pang Xiong wrote: “I love the creativity of this event! Great people! Great Company! Great Food! And Fun Fun Fun!” Night Market attendee Hannah Stander Riederer of Saint Paul simply wrote: “Fabulous event!!!”

The two remaining Night Markets are scheduled for Aug. 16 and Sept. 6, 2014, located at the 400 block of University Avenue. A final Little Mekong market is scheduled for Saint Paul Open Streets on Sept. 21, 2014, from 12:00 – 4:00 pm when University Avenue will be closed to vehicle traffic. More information can be found at www.LittleMekong.com and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/LittleMekong.

The Little Mekong District and the Night Market initiatives are supported by The Saint Paul Foundation, The Bigelow Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, and the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative. The Night Market is sponsored by Sunrise Banks, Eureka! Recycling, and MTec Electric, Inc. Little Mekong ArtWave is supported by Twin Cities LISC, Springboard for the Arts, Mardag Foundation, and City of Saint Paul Cultural STAR Program.

Check out these related media stories on the Little Mekong Night Market:

Little Mekong Night Market: Street food and art in a carnival candy shell, City Pages

Little Mekong Night Market debuts in St. Paul, TwinCities.com

Little Mekong Night Market comes to St. Paul, KARE 11 TV