It might be hard to get lost looking for Hing Wa Lee Jewelers Inc.’s new flagship store when it opens in late October in San Gabriel.
That’s because the San Gabriel City Council is considering renaming the street in front of the new store as Hing Wa Lee Place.
Owner David Lee requested the name change in memory of his late father, who founded the store and after whom it is named.
In a supporting report, the City Council recognized the substantial amount of tax revenue the store has contributed to San Gabriel since it opened 20 years ago.
“It’s not like stadium naming rights, but the city is happy that a company like that was able to make it out of the recession,” said City Engineer Daren Grilley, who added that the business would pay for street signs and other work necessary to rename the 225-foot street. Now known as Bencamp Street, it lies west of South Del Mar Avenue.
The change, which has already had two readings, has been sent back to staff for review. While the council has voiced its support, such a renaming hasn’t happened in the last decade and the city wants to make sure its rules and procedures are clear.
The new store will replace the original, which is nearby in San Gabriel. The company has another store in Walnut and corporate offices in Industry. The company generated about $50 million in revenue in 2012, a record year, according to Lee.
He attributed the performance to an influx of big spending from emigrants and tourists from China, and said the new location was specifically created to attract tourists. The shop will be 11,500 square feet, big enough to give busloads of Chinese tourists enough room to browse high-end jewelry.
“We want to show the tourists and immigrants we’re not a fly-by-night operation,” Lee said. “Many of them have big trust issues. People in China are always trying to rip each other off.”
Having a street named after his store helps with credibility, but Lee added that his staff plays a large role in catering to Chinese customers. The employees can speak Mandarin and other Chinese dialects.
“They understand the cultures of different provinces and villages,” he said. “You’re not going to find that service in South Coast or on Rodeo Drive.”
– Justin Yang
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