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Merchants in San Francisco’s Chinatown are welcoming the night market event as another step toward recovery

SAN FRANCISCO — Vendors in San Francisco’s Chinatown hoped a new night market event on Friday would bring some much-needed attention and visitors to their neighborhood as it continues to recover from the pandemic more than four years later.

The event, modeled after markets in Asia, saw large crowds last fall and March, so organizers quickly decided to make it a monthly event.

“I think it’s important because you know the traffic in Chinatown is pretty slow in my opinion,” said Max Huang, who runs By Me Boba Tea with his father. “In order to have a good business, we need our, you know, people, tourists, to come to Chinatown, right? To eat, to shop, to consume.”

Huang opened the company, which sells Taiwanese and Hong Kong-style milk tea, just before the pandemic. It wasn’t easy for them given all the setbacks that came with COVID-19, but 2023 saw the beginning of significant customer flow and growth for the company.

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“I think the night market is really good for the community. It will bring more people to Chinatown,” said Abby Huang, another business owner in Chinatown whose family runs Gourmet Kitchen and House of Dim Sum.

“Post-COVID, it’s a little bit difficult because a lot of things are changing, like food costs, and it’s hard to hire people. Yes, it is still a challenge.”

Shops welcome the return of the night market to San Francisco’s Chinatown Through

For some of these families it is not just a business district, but a piece of home. The family that runs By Me Boba Tea immigrated to the US from China, and they see a part of where they come from in the neighborhood every day.

“You know, the environment, the buildings and the decorations are very close to home, so we think it is very attached to us,” said Max Huang.

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The night markets are held on the second Friday of the month from 5:30 PM to 9:00 PM. About 30 vendors participated along Grant Avenue between Sacramento and Jackson. Organizer Lily Lo spent her afternoon putting the final pieces into place. She says vendors wish the night market would happen more often.

“Oh, they like it,” Lo said. “They want me to do it every week. I can’t do it. Once a month is good.”

Lo says the market introduces a new generation to San Francisco’s Chinatown.

“Chinatown has a lot of low incomes and seniors and we don’t have enough young people. They are the ones spending money,” Lo said. “So we like young people who spend money.”

Eunice Lu participated in her second night market. She says her business, Lady Luck Cafe, has already benefited.

“Just to help our company grow and gain more exposure,” Lu said.

People get to know the restaurant at the night market and come back later.

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All suppliers come from companies in Chinatown. While night markets help any business, Lu says it’s bigger than that.

“It gives us the opportunity to show more of our culture and also help our local economy,” Lu said.

Lo has more vendors who continue to contact her for a spot at the night market, but with only three blocks, 30 vendors is her maximum for now. Lo says she plans to apply for two additional blocks for the night market in May.

The stalls currently in the market offer a variety of food items, pastries and even some entertainment.

“We want people to come out and enjoy and have fun,” Lo said.

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