ST. PAUL, Minn. - Golden Harvest is a supermarket staple in East St. Paul. The Hmong-owned business sees roughly 1,000 transactions a day.
"When we first started there doesn't have much product let's just say that," said Fue Hawj, human resources manager for the store.
Since the store opened 10 years ago, it has seen added products, renovations and the hiring of more staff. Managers say they're not done yet.
"We look forward to expanding pretty soon in the next couple years," Hawj said.
They aren't the only ones trying to reach more customers. Big companies like McDonald's are too. But McDonald's latest attempt to attract more Hmong customers failed when they put up two billboards their target audience couldn't even read.
The billboards, located on University Avenue and Lexington Parkway and Payne and Bush Avenues, were supposed to read, "Coffee gets you up, breakfast gets you going," according to a statement from Gregg Miskiel, marketing director of McDonald's Midwest region.
However, Lee Pao Xiong, director of the center for Hmong Studies at Concordia University, said the mash up of words read more like "It's going to help you wake up and then the food will also help you get going."
Xiong said the choice of words isn't how most Hmong people speak. Xiong applauds McDonald's for reaching out and said while the translation wasn't a smart move the effort was.
"You're realizing the buying power within our community," Xiong said.
In the 1980's roughly 60 percent of the Hmong community lived in poverty. Today that number has dropped drastically to an estimated 25 percent. The rise in wealth propelled the buying power of Hmong communities in Minnesota and Wisconsin to a combined $811 million, according to an analysis of census data by Dr. Bruce Corrie, dean of the College of Business and Organizational Leadership at Concordia.
That wealth has been missed by major companies but has helped small business like Golden Harvest thrive, according to Xiong.
"The community is no longer a refugee community but a working community," he said.
McDonald's has apologized for the error. The billboards will be replaced next week.
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