Hoagie Shop On A Roll Now

Posted: September 12, 1990

What a difference two weeks make.

The Wild Wild West hoagie shop, where the Korean-American store owner's son fatally shot a black resident three months ago and sparked bitter, racially divisive demonstrations, is now called Southwest Delight.

Customers appear to be returning and police have disappeared.

But protesters, gone from the shop on 52nd Street at Kingsessing Avenue in Southwest Philadelphia since Aug. 31, are not saying whether the reign of quiet is permanent or if they plan to return to the streets.

"We've just taken some time to regroup," said Brother Benu, a demonstrator affiliated with the African People's Socialist Party, which spearheaded the protests.

Group members had said they would not leave until the shop closed permanently and reparations were paid to the family of Gregory Dorn, who was shot to death by Yung Soo Chang, the son of store owner Yong Chang, during an argument inside the store on June 13.

The district attorney's office ruled the death a justifiable homicide.

"We still have the same demands," Benu said. "We still want the Korean parasite out of the neighborhood."

Benu refused to elaborate on the protesters' plans or the reasons why they have taken a break.

Back at the store, patrons and workers offered no theories as to why the demonstrators were gone. Customers just said they were glad to be able to buy their hoagies in peace.

"I'm happy," said Lady Johnson, who has been coming in every night for the last two weeks to buy ice cream. "I knew (Dorn) since he was a little boy, but I wish them all the business in the world. These are nice people."

Johnson said she waited until the demonstrators left before patronizing the store again. "I'm just not into that kind of nonsense," she said.

"It's been all uphill since the third day" of the protest, said worker George Dowdy, who was heckled and jeered by protesters at the height of the demonstrations. "Customers are coming in to tell us to keep the faith, that business will pick up."

Store owner Chang recently said business at the shop is indeed improving, thanks in part to a variety of specials offered to lure back customers. But he said business, with about 70 customers daily, is still about half of what it used to be.

The store has also returned to its regular 10 a.m.-to-midnight hours and is open seven days a week.

"I appreciate the neighborhood and police and city for calming things down," Chang said. "This has been quite an education for me and for all Korean business people. We are going to do something for the community. I'm sure you'll see quite a bit of changes."

As part of this new effort, Chang has hired four black residents from the neighborhood.

Kenneth Jones, 25, has worked at the store since last Thursday. A friend of Dorn's, Jones says he has no regrets about accepting a job at the place where Dorn died.

"Whatever happened that night, I didn't have anything to do with it," he said. "I can't really change what happened."

He and other employees said they would work even if the protesters returned.

"Just like (protesters) have a right to be out there, we have a right to be here if we want to," said Mary Sowell, 17, who began working last Sunday as a cashier.

Jones said calm had returned, but Dorn's death had left permanent scars on the neighborhood.

"There's a lot of people that still haven't got over it," he said.

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