(From the "Bayon Business News" April, 1999)
By Mark Friedman
| In Pailin the streets are paved with diamonds and
everyone owns at least one Mercedes Benz. Mercedes Benz may now be DaimlerChrysler but the
dream of Pailin survives. Mr. Bunrith Lach, the developer of Pailin Plaza in Lowell, said,
"Pailin is the center of the diamond industry in Cambodia. Outside of Cambodia, people have
only heard of Cambodia and Phnom Penh but Asians, especially those in the jewelry business,
all know Pailin."
With its bright red, Asian style roof, Pailin Plaza, located at 716 Middlesex Street, Lowell is hard to miss. Bunrith explained, "Anyone driving by, even without seeing the store signs, knows it's Cambodian. It's a style similar to a Cambodian temple such as Angkor Wat." Built at the start of 1990, Pailin Plaza is still the most distinctive Cambodian commercial area in Lowell.
Starting at the left side of the Plaza is the Red Rose Restaurant. At the right of the Plaza is the Pailin Asian Supermarket, which is owned by Bunrith. It was the third Southeast Asian grocery to open in Lowell following the establishment of the Phnom Penh Supermarket and the Battambang Store.
"I never dreamed I'd own a grocery store", said Bunrith. "In 1986 my brother noticed a small grocery store called Indochina. A third of the building was a grocery and two thirds an auto body shop. We bought the store and began to operate it." At first business was slow. Inadequate capitalization and communications was the problem. Bunrith borrowed money from his relatives and friends, increased the stock, and improved communications with customers. "We experienced a big increase in revenue", said Bunrith. A year and a half later Bunrith had to leave his job at Wang in order to devote himself full time to the store.
The establishment of Pailin Plaza set off powerful economic waves in the Cambodian community. According to Bunrith, when Pailin Plaza opened all the Cambodian stores in Lowell started to improve. The stores got bigger and Cambodians began moving to Lowell from California, Texas, and other states. They saw a strong community in Lowell with a temple.
In addition to the Red Rose Restaurant and the Pailin Asian Supermarket, the Plaza also contains a fashion clothing store, video store, dental office, hair stylist, and jewelry store. Visitors are welcome to tour the historic Pailin Plaza and browse in any of the stores.
Mark Friedman, president of Third-Culture, teaches and consults in business and culture. He speaks Chinese, Malay/Indonesian, French, Italian, and Czech and is learning Cambodian. firstname.lastname@example.org