Boomtown: Asian residents fuel Morrisville's diverse businesses, rapid growth and rich culture

Michael Perchick Image
Wednesday, September 6, 2023
Boomtown: Asian residents fuel Morrisville's diverse businesses
Like most of the Triangle, Morrisville has undergone a transformation during the past two decades.

MORRISVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- Like most of the Triangle, Morrisville has undergone a transformation during the past two decades.

"When I came in 2002, I lived in a neighborhood called Breckenridge. That was the biggest neighborhood and we didn't have any grocery stores. The closest one was in Cary," said Satish Garimella, who now serves as a Council Member.

Today, it's a far different situation.

"Pretty much every shopping complex has an Indian grocery store or an Indian restaurant and that is amazing. Actually looking at the latest stats like we did from the small business microloan (pandemic program), we have cuisines for 16 countries," said Garimella, who grew up in India before moving to the United States.

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Indian-Americans are the largest ethnic group in Morrisville, providing a natural base for Madhura Banda's business, Henna by Madhura Morrisville.

"Weddings, house warmings, pregnancy henna, it is more popular here," said Banda.

She runs the business with her husband and has connected with customers at the town's Diwali celebration and International Festival.

"What we've seen from our business, it's not just that the Indian population. I know it's more diverse. And it was actually, we were caught by surprise as to how they respond," said Adisheshe Shavi, Banda's husband who co-owns the business.

Garimella said he believes the town's proximity to universities and colleges, coupled with its booming tech and life sciences sectors, has made it attractive to foreign-born populations.

SEE ALSO: Fuquay-Varina businesses enjoy fruits of town's rapid growth

"The other thing is some of the local temples here. (People) have a place to go and exchange their ideas and have the cultural roots to the events that they have. So that was a good component of it," Garimella explained.

Wake County Economic Development lists more than 700 international companies with a presence in Wake County, providing another avenue to attract talent. A relatively affordable lifestyle, compared to other states with large international populations, coupled with population growth and increasing diversity, has led many to make their moves permanent.

"My kid, who is second-generation, he finds no difference, and he's been exposed to all types of diversity and culture, thanks to the school system," Garimella said.

According to Carolina Demography, India was responsible for the third-most migrants to North Carolina in 2021; right behind it on the list is South Korea. Inside K-Town Market, owner Jun Lee has transformed the upstairs space into Oppang, a K-Pop store.

"My sister was into K-pop in like 2016, and I just started getting into it through her. We got closer and had a summer together and so we just started developing similar interests. It's been growing ever since," said Lexie Klimek, the store's manager.

From 2010-2020, North Carolina's Asian and Pacific Islander population grew by 64%, the fastest of any ethnic group in the state. In Wake County, it nearly doubled, growing at the fourth-fastest pace in North Carolina.

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"Any diversity group growing like that is going to help. Definitely having downstairs has increased what we have up here. But also just like American people in general, they come to the shop to experience new things, and then they see the store up here and they come up here to experience the thing," said Klimek.

K-Town Market has a downstairs portion featuring a cafe, offering sit-down and take-out meals, and a grocery store. Lee said that the customer base has become increasingly diverse during the past few years, as their offerings are now more well-known. It's a point appreciated by Klimek, whose sister teaches English in South Korea.

"It changes your perspective on a lot of things. I think it opens everyone's mind to a lot of things, which I think is always a positive experience, especially here in America," said Klimek.