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Shopkeepers clear shelves

March 02, 2005

Andrew Edwards

Wes and Flori Hseih marked the end of a quarter-century of business

in Newport Beach with the closure of 2W Market, a neighborhood store

the family opened in 1979.

The couple spent Tuesday morning packing up unsold goods after

shutting down the store on Monday, though they would have rather

stayed open.

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"We have to get out of here. We really don't want to," Wes Hseih,

55, said.

The Hseihs lost their lease to their Balboa Boulevard market,

which will be torn down to make room for a new building, which will

have retail on the ground floor and residences upstairs, said Mark

Whitehead, Fashion Island Realty agent.

Whitehead said the property owner could not generate enough

revenue from the neighborhood market's lease payments to cover

property taxes.

The Hseihs opened the market in October 1979, just a few months

after emigrating from Taiwan. The family named their store 2W using

the first initials of Wes Hseih and his brother, Willie.

Wes and Flori Hseih now live in Huntington Beach, but when they

were getting started in the United States, they lived with their son

Hank in a one-bedroom apartment on the peninsula.

"They're just a dedicated, hard-working family," Newport Beach

resident Janet Winter said. Winter's parents owned the apartment

where the Hseih family lived until the mid-1980s.

On Tuesday, the market's shelves were still stocked with various

groceries like cereals, canned tuna and refried beans. However,

Balboa resident Howard Hall said that for neighbors, 2W Market was

more than just another place to buy milk and eggs.

"It's just sad they're closing. [Wes Hseih] is a very community-

spirited kind of person. He even keeps keys for people who get locked

out of their houses and so forth," Hall said. "He's got dozens and

dozens of keys. He helps people move furniture, he delivers food to

shut-ins. He's just done so many things for the community here; it's

an institution that's closing."

Behind the store's counter, the Hseihs kept a collection of

photographs of neighborhood children that Wes Hseih called their

"guardian angels." Flori Hseih said the worst part about leaving the

store is leaving the Balboa residents.

"We will miss all the neighbors. They treated us really nice and

we saw all the kids grow up," she said. "It's not money -- we're OK,

we got our health ... we can do something new, restart our life."

Wes Hseih said he expects to stay in the grocery business, but his

future will be that of an employee, not a business owner.

One trend that proved a challenge was what Wes Hseih called the

peninsula's biggest change during his time in business -- expensive

vacation homes that replaced rental units that were filled hungry

college students.

"They party, they eat, they drink -- just like you and me when we

were young," Wes Hseih said.

He also said it's too hard for small grocers to compete in a

marketplace increasingly dominated by discount titans like Wal-Mart

and Costco.

In the current business climate, Wes Hseih doubts that other

grocers can stay in business or that he can open another store.

"Pretty soon it's going to be all disappeared. That's why it's

very hard to restart," he said.

* ANDREW EDWARDS covers business and the environment. He can be

reached at (714) 966-4624 or by e-mail at andrew.edwards

@latimes.com.

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