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