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Asian Store-Owner

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"Koreans tend to only have two basic facial expressions. It's either very calm and stoic and serene or GET OUT OF MY STORE!"

Asian characters have a tendency to be shown as the owners of a convenience store or local market in works. They will frequently be coded as recent immigrants who speak a form of pidgin English (like Asian Speekee Engrish and Stereotypical South Asian English) and employ their large family in every position at the store, even if they legally aren't allowed to. For those few Asian characters who get proper characterization, it will typically be that of the Funny Foreigner who dishes out some classic Asian Rudeness.

A Trope in Aggregate based off of the Truth in Television reality that many grocery stores and corner shops in North America, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK are owned by Asian immigrants and their families. The specific ethnicity differs depending on which country of origin the work takes place in, reflecting the different trends in immigration these countries experienced. In the US, South Asians (particularly Indian) and East Asians (Chinese and Korean, especially) will be the store owners. Similar can be said for the UK, though West Asians (what Americans would typically refer to as Middle Easterners) are also very common, along with Pakistanis. In The Western, Chinese shopowners are common, because in the US, many Chinese immigrants were sent to the West to build the Transcontinental Railroad that connected the eastern and western parts of the country. note  After work was finished some were able to stay and live in the US, finding work as launderers and store owners.

Typically, however, these characters' ethnicity goes without specification or are mishmashed into a hodgepodge of "vaguely Asian," as they are rarely a main or even a supporting character, but a bit role in the background. Indeed, part of what makes this trope meaningful is the severe lack of representation of Asian people in Western media in general, making this particular depiction stand out. So as a media trope, any Asian character who owns a grocery or convenience store counts.

This is a trope that only makes sense in the context of "Western" media and depictions of "Western" countries, where Asian characters are few and far between despite making up a sizable chunk of the population. This means that most Anime and Manga examples likely do not count, as those are often explicitly set in Japan or in other worlds entirely.

Sub-Trope of Ethnic Menial Labor. Compare Chinese Launderer.


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  • One skit by The Capitol Steps had a character proclaim "If you do not stop making fun of Pakistani people, we will be forced to do something drastic. We will close every 7-Eleven in your country!!"
  • One of Margaret Cho's early routines began with her saying "Hi, my name is Margaret Cho and I'm Korean. But I don't, like, own a store or anything." Slightly subverted in that her parents did own a bookstore in San Francisco when she was a child.
  • In a very early skit, Jeff Foxworthy pondered whether the Middle East has Americans working in their 7-Elevens.
  • Bernard Manning would ask if there were Asians in attendance at his shows. If there were, he'd ask who was minding the shop.
  • A recurring sketch of Carlos Mencia has him portraying an Indian convenience store owner who routinely insulted his customers. In another sketch, he is hosting the racial stereotype Olympics and the final round is a tie-breaker between the black and Hispanic contestants. The event is who is the better looter and for added hilarity, he asks the Asian contestant to pretend to be one of these yelling "Why you take?" in a stereotypical accent as the other two contestants grab their stuff and run.
  • Russell Peters, a comedian who specializes in exploiting and making fun of cultural stereotypes, has used this trope several times, most notably his "Be a Man!" bit.

    Comic Books 
  • While the equivalent Swedish cliché would be the Middle-Eastern shopowner (specifically Turkish), Per-Albin Singh in Bacon&Ägg and other comics in the same Verse is clearly South Asian. (He changed his first name when he moved to Sweden to fit in better but didn't want to change his surname.) His shop is always open, 24 hours a day, despite him being the only employee, but he waves questions away with vague mentioning of mysterious Oriental powers. He has an identical twin-brother who co-owns the shop, but happens to be in the country illegally. They take turns staffing it.
  • Viz has Mr. Patel, the turbaned and ever-smiling owner of "Patel's 24-Hour Nanomart", where Eight Ace gets his beer from. He seems a nice guy, although some might look askance at someone so willing to sell booze to an obvious alcoholic.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Turning Red, given that the Lee family temple is run as a business and contains a gift shop, Ming falls into this trope. When Mei and Ming catch a bunch of teens spraying graffiti on a temple's wall they chase them away swinging brooms.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Asian-owned convenience store that's attacked by skinheads in American History X. Apparently, it used to be white-owned but the owner went out of business and it was bought by Korean immigrants, who staffed it with mostly Hispanic workers for cheaper pay. This inspires the ire of the skinheads to attack it.
  • Bif Naked plays one in the Canadian film The Boys Club.
  • The Iranian man Farhad in Crash owns a convenience store, and buys a gun for self-defense after it gets robbed and sprayed with racist graffiti in the middle of the night.
  • Dick Tracy (1990) shows the gangster Ribs Mocca extorting money from a Chinese shop owner when he is arrested by Tracy.
  • The paranoid Asian store owners in Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood follow the black protagonists around suspiciously while ignoring the nice-looking white customer who's busy robbing them blind.
  • An Asian shopkeeper in The Doom Generation gets his head blown off during a shootout and remains alive for a few days. Yeah, it's an odd movie.
  • The Korean shop owner from Do the Right Thing. He's able to fend off the angry black mob that torches the Italian pizzeria by claiming that he's "black too". This was inspired by a Real Life story mentioned in The Autobiography of Malcolm X. During the Harlem riot of 1935, a convenience store was spared looting and burning when the Asian owners hung a sign in the window saying that they were colored too. The irony is that the Korean shop owner really is more racist than the Italian restaurant owner.
  • In Falling Down, Will Foster encounters a Korean liquor store owner who gouges his customers and has no sympathy for his plight. After getting beat up and his store wrecked, the Korean man is shown to be a little more human than his interactions with Foster would first suggest.
  • The movie Friday features a Chinese store owner randomly rising from the counter with a grin on his face once Craig and Smokey enter the store. The store has a sign reading "Black Owned" that can be seen before we see him, and that he's dressed very urban.
  • Gremlins: Mr. Wing is your stereotypical mystical store owner who looks a bit frightening, judges you harshly, and refuses to sell anything if he thinks you aren't ready to handle it. Deconstructed to a degree in the first film, with Mr. Wing's grandson badgering him that his persnickety attitude has turned the store into a money pit, which is the reason why he sells Gizmo to Randall behind his grandfather's back, making him responsible for all of the mayhem that follows.
  • Used in the movie It Could Happen to You, where Nicolas Cage's cop character realizes that a robbery is taking place because one of the normally overly work-obsessed Asian store owners isn't present.
  • A Vietnamese shop owner in The Ladykillers turns out to be a brutal former North Vietnamese general who is willing to join the heist and even murder the lady of the title. His stereotypical chain-smoking ultimately proves to be his downfall.
  • There are a couple of Asian shop owners in the opening scene of Loaded Weapon 1. They helped in the shoot-out, then verbally abused Luger for it.
  • The convenience store from Malibu's Most Wanted, which "B-rad" (Brad) is forced to rob. It turns out the store gets robbed all the time, so he (and his wife and kid) are prepared and armed to the teeth.
    Brad "B-Rad G" Gluckman: Y'all never been robbed?
    Asian store owner: Sure. Last week was 54 time. But they were cool. No gun to head, never scream. You know, good people.
  • Menace II Society, which starts with the protagonist and his friend being treated with such suspicion and rudeness by an Asian store owner and his wife that he ends up shooting them both.
  • The opening conversation for Pulp Fiction includes a lament about how this trope has made knocking over convenience stores nearly impossible, since many such store owners don't speak enough English to understand "Open the fucking register!" (Alternately, the store owners are Jewish, in which case their family has owned the store for generations, and they're naturally quite defensive of it.)
  • In Romper Stomper, a group of skinheads are enraged when they learn that their local watering hole has been bought out by a Vietnamese-Australian businessman. This leads to an epic clash between the skinheads and the local Vietnamese population.
  • In Rumble in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's character's uncle starts out as one before selling his store to an Asian woman. Given that it sells Chinese-style conveniences, this makes sense.
  • Training Day features a quick scene where Denzel Washington's character chases a black hoodlum through a Korean shop and asks the owners which way he went in Korean.
  • In a nontypical example, Tremors takes place in a rural Nevada community with a general store owned by the only Asian around.
  • Both versions of True Grit feature the Chinese Grocer who smokes an opium pipe and rents a back room to Rooster.

  • In the mystery novel 9 Dragons, murder victim John Li was found shot to death in his own store. He was an immigrant from China who is very traditional. This caused some tension with his son Robert, who is American-born and doesn't want to pay the Triad anymore.
  • At the beginning of Absolute Rage, an illegal immigrant from a small East Asian ethnic group operates a store in New York's Chinatown when he is threatened by a Latino robber. The store owner kills him, cuts off his head, and displays it in front of his store as a warning. Needless to say, this gets him arrested. The owner is essentially adopted the Chinese community afterward and a race war between Latinos and Chinese nearly breaks out. The protagonist, New York's chief prosecutor, has to deal with the mess. (No, that's not the main plot.)
  • Discworld: Mr Gorriff from Jingo. He's Klatchian, but he fits the British variation of the archetype, as Klatch parodies India as well as Arabia and Turkey in this story. Indeed, Klatch seems to be generic "foreign" as far as Ankh-Morpork is concerned. He even keeps a crossbow under the counter although it's unreliable. In fact, Vimes thinks the only way a person could reliably hurt someone with it was by using it as a club.
  • In Good Omens, Mr Rajit runs Rajit's Newsagents and Video Rental on the ground floor of the building that also contains the Witchfinder Army headquarters (i.e. Witchfinder-Sergeant Shadwell's flat). Shadwell, whose paranoia about witches easily shifts into regular bigotry, suspects him of being a voodoo practitioner, despite Newt pointing out they don't have voodoo in Bangladesh.
  • In Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan novels, Carol Zimmer, an immigrant from Laos, becomes one of these. After her husband's death, Jack Ryan puts together a small corporation and uses various accounting tricks to purchase Mrs. Zimmer her own convenience store tax-free. He also uses a good part of his personal fortune to start a trust in order to provide for her seven children's college educations, something he promised her husband that he would do after he was killed toward the end of Clear and Present Danger. She's notable for playing straight the usual stereotype in some ways (having slightly broken English and being a typical education obsessed Asian mom, though neither are treated as bad things), but she's also notable for otherwise proving to simply be a good-hearted Happily Adopted Eaglelander who just wants to run a store and provide for her family. The arrangement comes back to haunt him in Executive Orders when his political opponents attempt to use it as evidence he's hiding an affair.
  • In the first Joe Sixsmith novel (a British mystery series), there is a South Asian convenience store owner who is victimized by the chavs in the neighborhood, and his store is eventually burnt down. by him as part of an insurance scam / Framing the Guilty Party toward the chavs.
  • The Sherlock Holmes pastiche novel The Italian Secretary has this trope operating in 1890s London, in the form of a Punjabi gentleman who runs a small general store almost opposite 221B Baker Street. Mrs. Hudson refuses to set foot in his shop ó not on account of any racist feelings, but because she believes the premises to be haunted. Watson briefly interacts with him at the end when he goes there to buy some tobacco, and the Punjabi laments that the local superstition about his shop being haunted has kept a few potential customers away. The lament is triggered by Watson innocently commenting that he thought he saw a ghost; realising that he's upset the man, he buys more tobacco than he had originally intended to buy.

    Live-Action TV 
  • During Season 4 of 24, Jack is pursued by mercenaries in a blacked-out L.A. He seeks refuge in a sporting goods store, which turns out to be owned by two Arab men. They wind up helping Jack in the subsequent shootout. This presence was actually included due to criticism by Arab civil rights groups about the preponderance of sinister Arabs in Season 4.
  • The Bisexual: Deniz's parents own a store where she works, and she's often rude to customers (though granted they sometimes deserve it). Unusually they're Turkish, so West Asian, not the South Asians more common for English depictions.
  • Mrs. Kim from Gilmore Girls. Notably, the "store" is also her house. She sells antique furniture out of it and it's consistently a mess.
  • Like all Asian tropes, parodied in Goodness Gracious Me, when the token white guy on the board of the Indian Broadcasting Company asks why white people can't play shopkeepers.
  • In How to Be Indie, Indie's best friend is Abi Flores: a Filipina whose parents have owned the Happy Breezy Food Hut since she was 5 years old.
  • In the JAG episode "Wedding Bell Blues", Harm goes to the dry cleaner to get his Dress Whites uniform back in time for Budís wedding but it has been mixed up with a police uniform from another customer. The Indian owner will only help Harm locate the other customer if he agrees to take his daughter on a date.
  • Kim's Convenience stars the Kims, a Korean family who own the titular convenience store in Canada. The two owners are Korean immigrants Mr and Mrs Kim, and their Canadian-born daughter in college also helps out (with her father adamant about her inheriting the store). The married couple has a (realistic) case of Asian Speekee Engrish, and Mr Kim in particular can come off as cranky and obsessive with his store, but they otherwise make an effort to get along with their customers and the regulars in return do appear to genuinely like the Kims.
  • My Name Is Earl:
    • A recurring character is Iqbal, who was running the store on the day that Earl got the winning lottery ticket. In early episodes, he speaks no English and needs Patty to translate for him, though he does seem to be picking up the language in later episodes. He is shown to be a Covert Pervert: he watched an orgy in a phone booth and is a frequent client of Patty the Daytime Hooker. However, it's not known whether Iqbal actually owns that convenience store, or just works there.
    • Two other such unnamed characters were seen in an early episode where Earl is teaching ESL classes to make up for making fun of people's accents. Earl is seen at the store with his friend Ralph, who wants them to get back to their old stealing and mayhem-causing ways, but Earl doesn't want his students to see that. All they can say in English is "My Name is Earl."
  • Though not seen yet, on Selfie, Korean John Cho says his parents own a Buca Di Beppo (Italian restaurant), playing with the obvious Asian people own an Asian restaurant gag.
  • Featured in both the original UK and American remake of Shameless, but subverted in that the owner of the store, Kash, is mild-mannered and reluctant to use violence while his wife is a perfect embodiment of the stereotype.
  • Navid Harrid played and his (always speaking from offscreen) wife Meena in Still Game run a corner shop in Craiglang, played by Sanjeev Kholi (Navid) voiced by Shamshad Akhtar (Meena). Muslim, Meena only speaks Hindi and Navid typically translates for her (though she is subtitled and is shown to be a Deadpan Snarker). Navid sometimes gets caught up in Jack, Victor and Winston's shenanigans.
  • In the episode "Appointment in Samarra" of Supernatural, Dean gets to be a Grim Reaper for a day. His first assignment brings him to a store owned by an Asian guy, in the middle of a robbery. The robber threatens to kill the owner's son if he doesn't comply, and when he bends to pick up the money the owner takes a gun under the drawer and shoots him. Dean then lets the robber agonize a little before finally "reaping" him.
    Robber: Why?
    Dean: Mostly because you're a dick. Enjoy the ride down, pal. Trust me — sauna gets hot.
  • One of the missing people in a Without a Trace was the daughter of a husband and wife pair of these.
  • In Young Sheldon, his best friend Tam's family are refugees from communist Vietnam and run a convenience store.

  • "You own a Store" by Anal Cunt is about one of these, which the narrator screams racial slurs and insults at.
  • British band Cornershop (led by Tjinder Singh) was named in mockery of the Asian Store Owner stereotype in the UK.
  • Ice Cube's "Black Korea" is a particularly controversial example.

    Music Videos 
  • The music video for Dan Seals' 1989 country hit "They Rage On" featured an Asian store owner; he was the father of a teenage girl who falls in love with a white boy. The store is vandalized, and the white boy, the Asian girl and the girl's family are the subject of hateful attacks in what on the surface appears to be a typical small town.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Alan from Sesame Street owns Hooper's store but otherwise shows no elements of the stereotype.


    Video Games 
  • Bully: The owners of the three Yum Yum Markets, Mr. Oh and Stan, are of Oriental descent.
  • While entering convenience or liquor stores in Grand Theft Auto V, the cashier will almost always be South or East Asian.
    Get the fucking out!
    Shoplifters will be persecuted!
  • Pretty much the only Asian character in Heavy Rain is a shopkeeper whose one scene involves someone trying to rob his store while he firmly refuses to hand over the money.
  • Leisure Suit Larry 1: In the Land of the Lounge Lizards features a spectacular example at the convenience store.
    Ya we got lubbers!
  • The Matrix: Path of Neo has an old Chinese/Japanese 'man' really A.I., who, likely, owned the tea house, that was used in a training simulation.
  • Postal 2 has Habib, a Middle Eastern, as the shopkeeper of the Lucky Ganesh. You are tasked to go to him to buy a carton of milk. If you try to steal it, Habib will immediately lock down the store and try to shoot you down. Not only that, but he also has a group of terrorists headquartered upstairs who will attack you upon running into them. Luckily, you are playing as Dude, so you can take them out.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Oracle Games and The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap all have Stockwell the shopkeeper, who averts the series' usual character designs by being clearly Chinese (or from a Fantasy Counterpart Culture thereof). In the Japanese scripts, he has a Funny Foreigner accent, though this was dropped from international versions.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 
  • Where the Bears Are: The clerk at the Stockroom seems to fit... at first. It turns out that she is a Dominatrix who manhandles the bears and chides Nelson for falling for the Asian stereotype act.
  • The Corneeshop Show on Youtube centres British Bangladeshi Malik and his Chinese employee Tony Chang trying to run his fathers Cornershop.

    Western Animation 
  • In American Dad!, Roger talks Stan into a robbery spree to pay off a bet; the second one they go for has Roger get his ass kicked in the background by a recognizably Asian pair of store owners.
  • Camp Lazlo: In "No Beads No Business", Indian-accent elephant Raj becomes head of the camp store. He continues to have this position in later episodes in the series.
  • Inverted in Clerks: The Animated Series, when Dante and Randal reminisce about a time they worked at a Quick Stop in India as part of an exchange program:
    Customer: Why are you convenience store guys always American? Speak Hindi!
  • Uncle Chan from Jackie Chan Adventures is the owner of Uncle's Rare Finds, an antique shop in San Francisco's Chinatown neighborhood that deals in old and valuable artifacts from other countries. Uncle is also quite a grouchy geezer with little patience, who must occasionally use his own (or his nephew Jackie's / employee Tohru's) martial arts skills to defend the store from their enemies.
  • Minoriteam features Nonstop, a walking Indian stereotype who is immune to all small arms fire. The name is a pun on "quick stop", or convenience store, and his invulnerability references the fact that they get robbed at gunpoint a lot.
  • Purno de Purno has Dr. Ha Chiu, a Chinese man who runs an Asian store selling various potion-like substances. A few episodes revolved around Purno, the main character, taking one of the substances from the store and suffering its effects for the duration of the episode.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Apu isn't as aggressive as his East-Asian counterparts, but his first wife will always be the Kwik-E-Mart. He's taken multiple bullets for it, to the point that he reminisces about "the sweet kiss of hot lead" fondly. Though Apu generally seems to be willing to cooperate with potential robbers, it simply appears that they are just fond of shooting him (and he always seems to come out of it well). It's gotten to the extent where he and Snake have something approaching marriage counseling as Snake has taken to robbing Apu's brother instead. He's developed very specific opinions concerning the rope he's tied up with, including quality, knots, and materials. In one episode ("Much Apu About Something"), he even comes to butt heads with his nephew (who has decided to rebuild the Kwik-E-Mart to conform to modern standards) who decries Apu as a stereotype while Apu points out that his nephew is also a stereotype (that of the hipster) and the only difference between them is that Apu doesn't go out of his way to deny who he is.
    • In "Homer the Heretic", Apu leaves Jamshed, a small child, in charge of the store when he has to be elsewhere. Jamshed quickly pulls a shotgun larger than himself on Dolph, Jimbo, and Kearney.
    • Other Asian businesspeople on The Simpsons include a Thai restaurant owner (who teaches Bart to be a ninja), the staff of the Happy Sumo Japanese restaurant (including Akira, who has a second job teaching karate classes), an elderly couple who run a Chinese restaurant and play up stereotypes to appeal to customers, and a creepy old Chinese man in an alley who sells toys that turn out to be demonically possessed (in a Halloween special). Shelbyville is also shown to have its own version of the Kwik-E-Mart called the Speed-E-Mart, which is run by an East-Asian man in "The Lemon of Troy".
  • Tuong Lu Kim from South Park, though he's more of a restaurant owner. And he's not really Asian.


Video Example(s):


Menace II Society

Menace II Society starts with the protagonist and his friend being treated with such suspicion and rudeness by an Asian store owner and his wife that he ends up shooting them both.

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