The business is run by three generations of the Luu family, with Phong Luu steering the ship. He's worked in the market, helping his father, since he was eight and is an outspoken member of the Asian community.
The storied establishment has been in Edmonton's Chinatown neighbourhood for 30 years and is on Constable Shayne Cole's beat with the Disruption Unit under the Health Streets Operation Centre (HSOC).
"I first met Phong in January of 2021. During the course of our duties, we check in with the businesses and see how things are going, and that's how I got to know him," said Const. Cole.
Luu and Const. Cole struck up an instant friendship with Luu challenging Const. Cole to pick up a butcher knife and help around the shop.
"I think he kind of threw it out there thinking that I would back down, and I didn't," says Const. Cole.
Luu was impressed with how quickly Const. Cole picked things up and now hands him an apron whenever he visits the market–always teaching Const. Cole a new technique. Last week, it was how to cut up whole hogs–Luu says they process about 240 in a week. Today, Luu gave Const. Cole an easier job cutting up chickens, though still not so easy.
"He's so fast! Look at him! There's so much to learn," laughed Const. Cole.
He asked Luu what his favourite knife is, and Luu said bluntly, the one I'm using. The pair have shared many laughs. In these little moments, connections are made, and strong relationships are built.
"Shane, even though he's in uniform, he presents himself as a friend when he comes in. I can open up to him if I have a concern," says Luu. "If I tell him I have trouble in this corner of my building, he will listen. I tell him how I feel, and then he does his best to help me."
Luu's troubles outside his market are like other small businesses in Chinatown. The last few years have been incredibly challenging.
"I would say that it took a turn for the worst. Like, we'd never seen this amount of chaos in our community. Safety is always the number one issue," says Luu.
Const. Cole understands Luu's frustration.
"As a police officer, you want to approach every circumstance or situation with a balanced approach so that we consider our community members' needs and that of the shop owners and the businesses. But at the end of the day, if we don't have businesses, what do we have?" asks Const. Cole.
Luu does what he can to be respectful but firm with the community and to protect his business and customers. He regularly calls on EPS for support. He likens the relationship with EPS to Batman and him to Robin, but the duo operates under an unnecessary microscope of criticism.
"EPS is always our friend in this community. The members always come here like their logo says to serve and protect. But we have a lot of people who don't understand. A lot of people walk around with cameras and capture only a moment and try to blame EPS for being aggressive. But they all know our community's frustration and what we need. It sometimes falls on deaf ears," says Luu.
Even though Luu acknowledges there is a high risk of closing down or moving locations like many other businesses around him, he believes the community can rally together with the help of EPS, the government, and the public's support.
"This is our community. We have to take it back," says Luu.
Const. Cole wants to see Chinatown thrive like everyone else and feels hopeful about how the community supports one another.
"It is quite a tight community, so that's nice to see. They all support each other, and if somebody's having trouble, everybody's there to help, and everybody's there to work with each other, including EPS," says Const. Cole. "There are some great restaurants and markets down here, and it's small family businesses and multi-generational, so well worth supporting.”
For the time being, Const. Cole and Luu (along with other members of the HSOC team) will continue to share a laugh and lean on each other for support. When asked if he’d hire Const. Cole based on his skills as a butcher, Luu says this, “He gets a passing grade! I’d hire him.”
The Edmonton Police Service proudly celebrates Asian Heritage Month by sharing stories that celebrate the strength and resilience of the Asian community.