APPLETON (NBC 26) — Maiyoua Thao has put the sights, sounds and smells of a Southeast Asian street market under one roof.
“We don’t have to travel far to Chicago, to LA, to New York, to see places like this," she said. "We need to make it happen here.“
Growing up in a refugee camp in Thailand, Thao’s family fled to the U.S. when she was eight years old. She’s called Appleton home for the past 26 years, opening Long Cheng Marketplace about nine years ago. With May being Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, she wants the community to celebrate Hmong people.
“It means recognition," said Thao. "It means celebrations, it means bringing cultures, friendship together to celebrate and to recognize our hard work and to recognize who we are.”
Two years ago, Thao became the first Hmong woman elected as an alderperson.
“I had never thought that I would become an alderperson," said Thao. "It came to me that I should take that lead and I should pave the way for the young generation, and I should be that role model for my children and for other children in the community.“
The vendors at the market can start something small, get on their feet and grow, said Thao. Kaoly Lee, owner of Kaoly's, just started selling her authentic Asian fruit sponge cakes at the beginning of April.
“I know sometimes it’s a little bit intimidating, especially to come here, where it’s full of Asian cuisines and stores," said Lee. "But it does really bring a different experience.“
May Vang, owner of May's Kitchen, sells traditional Hmong dishes like sweet pork, with influence from other Southeast Asian cuisines too.
“Growing up watching people cook, just watching how happy people are when they’re eating your food," she said. "I think that really gets to me the most.“
Although the Hmong community in the Fox Valley is big, somewhere around 5,000 people, it’s extremely tight knit, said Vang.
“Even if I don’t know you, somebody that you know, knows me," she said. "And somebody that I know, knows you.”
This AAPI Heritage Month, she wants the community to know the Hmong call the Fox Valley home too.
“We’re here," she said. "We’re the same thing as you guys. We’re part of the community.“
Long Cheng Market is located at 1804 S. Lawe Street in Appleton and is open seven days a week from ; the vendors do have different hours though.
Pho Fever is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday through Sunday. They are closed on Mondays.
May's Kitchen is open every day except Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Kaoly's is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day except Tuesday. They close at 6 p.m. on Sundays.
Jasmine Leaf is open Thursday through Monday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.