Korean businesses booted from the Exchange Building

By Alia Marsha
Northwest Asian Weekly

Un “Missy” Bang, left, waits on a customer during their final days of operation. (Photo by Alia Marsha)

The line at The Original Deli in downtown Seattle is usually full of businessmen and women grabbing whatever lunch they can within the short break they have. The mom-and-pop delicatessen, tucked on the first floor of the Exchange Building on Marion St. between First Avenue and Second Avenue, has been a favorite to many over the years. Relationships and stories have emerged since its opening 44 years ago. But that’s all gone now.

The Original Deli went out of business on Feb. 7, after the owners were told to leave when the building began going under major renovations. Deli owner Un “Missy” Bang was heartbroken and clueless as to what the future might hold.

“This is everything we have,” Bang said.

Beacon Capital Partners bought the Exchange Building for $66 million last year and decided to remodel. In the process, it forced two Korean-owned businesses — The Original Deli and The Goodie Box — to close down. Other businesses in the building have not been affected.

Bang and her husband, Sung Bang, opened their first deli in 1970 in downtown Tacoma. When they bought The Original Deli in Seattle in 2007, they were amused by how different the atmosphere was. Seven years later, Bang still remembers the first day she served customers in downtown Seattle.

“It was really [an] awesome feeling. Downtown Tacoma was really slow-paced,” she said with a wide smile. “It’s really fun, and most people are really friendly. Within these seven years, we became friends with them, like a family.”

It’s difficult not to be charmed by Bang’s friendliness, a trait that has gained them loyal customers. Many were saddened when its closure was announced. Some even cried with the couple, and some tried to visit the deli as often as they could before it closed for good. Others, however, have taken an extra step.

Members of the Korean American Coalition in Washington state (KAC-WA) are doing their best to help the Bangs and Paula Kim, the owner of The Goodie Box gift shop, which is located one level above The Original Deli. Kim is also an immigrant. Efforts by KAC-WA include postings on its Facebook page and e-mails to the vice president of Beacon Capital Property Management, Andy Wattula. KAC-WA recently met with Beacon Capital representatives and business owners.

“KAC will continue to help facilitate and assist as the property owners and business owners collaborate to reach a fair and positive outcome,” said Cheryl Lee of KAC-WA, via e-mail.

The Bangs have three children who are all pursuing college degrees. They purchased the deli for $208,000 and saw it as their retirement plan.

“Because we put everything in here, we don’t have anything to start [over] with. “Hopefully, there are better opportunities out there.” (end)

Alia Marsha can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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