Home Local News After four decades on Madison’s South Side, Yue-Wah Oriental Foods set to...

After four decades on Madison’s South Side, Yue-Wah Oriental Foods set to close in August

Kien Ma, owner of Yue-Wah Oriental Foods, a long-standing grocery store on Madison's South Side set to close in August (Photo by Angelica Euseary)

Yue-Wah Oriental Foods, a long-standing grocery store on Madison’s South Side, is set to close in mid-August after 40 years.

Yue-Wah is a grocery store on S. Park Street that has been owned by Kien Ma. After 40 years of operation, Ma has decided to close the store. He moved to Madison from Vietnam to attend UW-Madison in the early 70s.

He earned a degree in mechanical engineering and was very familiar with the S. Park Street area as a student. He saw the previous owner of the store struggling and thought he could operate the store instead of pursuing a career in engineering. 

“After I graduated, Yue-Wah Oriental Foods was owned by a different person. they just opened for six months or so, and they kind of went bankrupt, with the whole business. I said, ‘Maybe I can do better than them and make better money than engineering.’ Which in theory is simple, when you get it in your head. But it’s a lot more complicated than that.”

When he bought Yue-Wah in 1983, he didn’t know anything about business or owning a business, and said that there was a very steep learning curve. 

“I was still young, I was just in my early 20s,” he said. “It took a lot of time to learn how to run a business, with no background in finance or anything.”

Ma used to run the store with his wife, Nuanchan, who unfortunately passed away a couple of years ago. Back then, he would close the store for one day out of the week to drive to Chicago to buy all the products he would sell in the store.  

“It was a lot of work,” he said. “But I didn’t mind because I still had plenty of energy at that time. I tried my best to keep the prices low,” he said. “I have tried to supply whatever the customer requires. That’s how we started rolling. 

“We got people requesting more and more things from different countries. We kept bringing that and that’s how I learned along the way too.”

After 40 years of business, Ma has decided to close the store as he’s getting older and less able to manage everything on his own. He’s looking forward to having more free time in his schedule, too. 

One thing Ma says he will miss about operating his store is his customers. He’s had some customers who have shopped with him for 20-30 years. Although he jokingly says that his wife always complained that he chatted too much, he will miss the community of customers that supported him for decades. 

“I want to let all my customers know that I appreciate their support after all these years,” he said. “I’m going to miss chatting with everybody.”

Yue-Wah Oriental Foods located in the Villager Shopping Center at 2328 S. Park Street will be open until the middle of August.