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Filipino businesspeople are achieving success in Phoenix

Charmel dela Cruz, among the unique treasures in her Mekong Plaza boutique, is a leading business woman in the Filipino community in Arizona.
Charmel dela Cruz, among the unique treasures in her Mekong Plaza boutique, is a leading business woman in the Filipino community in Arizona.
Denise Meridith

Few Phoenicians may realize it, but Asian-Americans are the fastest growing and most diverse minority group in Arizona. In 2010, the census showed around 3% of the Arizona population as Asian-American, doubling the population a decade earlier. For the first time, Filipinos surpassed Chinese as the second most populous Asian-American group in Arizona (Indians are first).

Filipinos are coming to Arizona for the same reasons as everyone else: low taxes, joining relatives, nice climate, and economic opportunity. Phoenix is a good place to start a business and Filipinos are taking great advantage of it. There are Filipino-American churches, clubs, and professional and students’ associations throughout the Valley.

Charmel dela Cruz is representative of these energetic businesspeople, who are making a difference in Phoenix. Cruz was born in Manila, Philippines, spent her early years in Indonesia, and moved to Phoenix in 2007. For the past four years, she and her partner Marie Villareal, have managed Asean Treasures & Gallery. It is a large boutique with beautiful one-of-a-kind art items from Indonesia, India, Vietnam, China and other Asian countries. She recently successfully expanded her business to include flooring.

The hard-working Cruz wears many hats. She is part of the Avída company, which recently started soliciting US investments in its spectacular masterplanned condo and residential retreat communities in the Philippines. She has been a producer-director (Laras Media International) for 18 years, and helped efforts to get the Weekly Philippine Times of Southern Nevada to devote a new section to Arizona news. Cruz is a local leader for ACN, an international home-based business, which provides household and business access to digital phones, security and other services. She accomplishes all of this while raising three children, ages 13-23.

“I enjoy spreading the word about the talents and accomplishments of Filipino-Americans in Arizona,” says Cruz, who handles community relations for the Filipino American Business Chamber of Commerce, which has 160 small business owners.

Mekong Plaza, at 66 S. Dobson Road, in Mesa, is the largest (100, 000 square feet), indoor Asian community market place in the Southwest. In addition to Cruz’ boutique, visitors there can find clothing stores, groceries, professional (e.g. travel, real estate) and personal services (e.g., hair, nails, etc.), and many restaurants.

While they may not have been as visible as other minorities in Phoenix, Asian-Americans are playing a welcomed and growing role in the recovery of the economy of the city.

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