A first-of-its-kind Asian retail center in Frisco is attracting unique brands and is expected to draw visitors from both in and outside of the city.

Though a number of Asian businesses have operated in Frisco for years, they had not been concentrated in a single retail center prior to the opening of the Frisco Ranch development.

Frisco Ranch, located east of Preston Road between Warren Parkway and Prestmont Place, includes 100,000 square feet of retail space with dining, shopping, medical and educational uses. Another 1,200 square feet are planned for a future phase of the development. Its tenants are predominantly East Asian brands, some of which opened their first Texas locations in Frisco.

“A lot of the franchises are really looking at the DFW market—actually, the North Dallas area—to place their first stores,” said Daniel Eng, a Sperry Commercial Global Affiliates broker in Plano.

Growth in Frisco’s Asian population and an influx of Californians moving to the area are what have drawn many of the new Asian businesses to Frisco, Eng said.

Before Frisco Ranch opened, some residents traveled to Plano or Carrollton to visit similar shopping centers with a mix of East Asian offerings.

Ivy Sun, executive vice president of the US-China Chamber of Commerce Dallas, said the Asian centers in Carrollton and Plano have “everything” in terms of shops and restaurants. But Sun, who is also a Frisco resident, said she is hopeful Frisco Ranch will attract more people than centers in nearby cities do, especially since the one in Frisco is near Stonebriar Centre.

“In Frisco, we are a lot better than Plano and Carrollton—we have the shopping area for clothes and fashion just across the street,” Sun said. “That makes it so convenient.”

People from outside of Frisco who visit Frisco Ranch may be coming to the city or that part of the city for the first time, said Tony Felker, Frisco Chamber of Commerce president.

“They may then come to other major retail destinations that have proven themselves over the years, such as the mall,” he said.

Concentrating business

For Asian shops and restaurants, owners often find it beneficial to be concentrated in retail centers like Frisco Ranch, said Calvin Wong, managing partner of Sperry Commercial Global Affiliates.

Because their products cater to the Asian community, these business owners believe their chances of failing are reduced if they are surrounded by businesses that draw the same customer base, Wong said.

Spring Creek Crossing in Plano and Carrollton Town Center are two nearby retail centers with a variety of Asian businesses grouped in one location. Sun said many in Frisco’s Asian community often drove to these centers before Frisco Ranch opened.

Marufuku Ramen General Manager Phil Guo said he views the variety in Frisco Ranch as helpful for his restaurant.

“It’s more options rather than competition,” he said. “I actually like these types of centers where there are many, many choices, so people will never get tired of the food.”

How successful an Asian business is outside of a retail center depends on the foot traffic near the business and the quality of the products or services, Eng said.

With various dining and shopping options, Eng said, consumers could spend several hours at Asian retail centers grabbing dinner, dessert and then groceries.

Drawing factors

Several Frisco Ranch business owners said Toyota North America’s move from California to Texas was one factor that prompted them to open in Frisco.

The Japanese automotive company held a grand opening in 2017 for its new headquarters in Plano just south of Frisco’s border. About 2,000 employees moved from California to North Texas in the relocation, Toyota spokesperson Victor Vanov said.

Heather Nguyen, NewQuest Properties broker for Frisco Ranch, said since many of the businesses at the retail center are popular in California, a lot of Toyota’s employees are familiar with its restaurants and stores.

Katie Tang moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth area in 2017 with her husband, who works for Toyota. Two years later, Tang and a college friend opened a Japanese dessert shop called SomiSomi Soft Serve & Taiyaki.

The business is known for its taiyaki, which is a fish-shaped cake with filling. Tang said she first tried SomiSomi in California.

“Since I live here, I really want to introduce some good, tasty products from different places to Texas people,” she said.

Business owners also said they have been eyeing the growth in Frisco, especially in the Asian demographic.

California’s Asian population has long outnumbered Texas’, but Texas has seen greater growth in recent years.

Texas’ Asian population grew by 36.69% between 2010 and 2017, whereas California’s Asian population only grew by 15.93%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Frisco’s growth outpaced that of both states, increasing its Asian population by 171.96% between 2010 and 2017, according to census data.

“The studies have always [shown] the Asian growth has been in the East and West Coast,” Eng said. “Texas is finally on the map, and the DFW market has continued to grow.”

That growth caught the attention of stores, such as 99 Ranch Market, a grocery store at Frisco Ranch. The Asian grocer also has locations locally in Carrollton Town Center and Spring Creek Crossing.

Four years ago, executives with 99 Ranch Market tagged Frisco as a potential spot for the store’s next location, said Juliet Chen, 99 Ranch Market marketing director.

“Frisco is definitely one of the fastest growing cities in Texas and in the country as well,” Chen said. “… We wanted to be part of a community that is rapidly growing.”

New flavors

For several businesses—including Marufuku Ramen and Sul & Beans—the Frisco Ranch locations are their first in Texas.

Sun said businesses often choose Frisco over other cities, especially for their brands’ first location, because of Frisco’s booming population and development.

Marufuku Ramen offers Hakata-style ramen, which is specific to that region of Japan. The restaurant has two other locations in California.

“Seeing that we have a big Japanese customer base, big support from Japanese communities makes me feel at ease that at least we’re doing something right,” Guo said.

Next door to SomiSomi, Tang also opened the first Texas location of Sul & Beans, a Korean dessert shop known for its sweet toast and bingsoo, or shaved ice.

Demands for space

Plenty of other Asian businesses are expected to move into the city but want to wait to move into an Asian retail center, either in Frisco Ranch or in another one that might come to the city, Wong said.

The high price of construction in the area may slow developers’ efforts to bring another Asian retail center to Frisco, Eng said.

However, more Asian grocery stores are looking into opening locations in the city that could attract more Asian centers, Wong said.

“I think the trend will continue to grow,” he said. “It’s just finding the right spot.”