Bufeng Gao, owner of Qin Xi’an Noodles, receives a check Thursday from the Edmonds Chamber Foundation’s Wish Fund outside of her restaurant that was burned in a fire. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Bufeng Gao, owner of Qin Xi’an Noodles, receives a check Thursday from the Edmonds Chamber Foundation’s Wish Fund outside of her restaurant that was burned in a fire. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

After arson burns Edmonds plaza, 14 businesses need help

Plum Tree Plaza — a cultural hub for Asian Americans — burned in a three-alarm fire early Sept. 11.

EDMONDS — Will Chen picked up his son a week ago Friday from tutoring at the Plum Tree Plaza on Highway 99 in Edmonds.

It was a typical day. They got takeout at one of their favorite spots, the Wonton Noodle House, a Cantonese-style restaurant next door in the plaza’s strip mall. Chen’s son, 10, loves a beef rice noodle dish served there. When they got their food, the son made sure to tell his dad that he had first dibs on any leftovers they had.

An arsonist set the plaza on fire the next morning, Sept. 11. Witnesses reported smoke and flames around 5:35 a.m. at the L-shaped strip mall at 22315 Highway 99.

The fire quickly ripped through the mall’s shared attic and severely damaged the noodle house and all 13 other businesses in the plaza. Each sustained either flame, smoke or water damage, forcing them to close their doors.

Edmonds police had not identified a suspect as of Friday afternoon. They were seeking the public’s help to solve the crime.

Strip malls sometimes fly under the radar for commuters or other passersby. Yet they can be more than just a cluster of isolated businesses. Plum Tree Plaza was a cultural hub where Asian Americans connected with their cultures and one another. Among the mall’s offerings were five restaurants, a tutoring center, a dentist’s office, a beauty school, a salon, an antique store and one of the area’s only Indonesian grocery stores, Waroeng Jajanan.

The store with a small restaurant inside was one a gathering place for people with Indonesian heritage. Other businesses served a similar purpose.

“The people there — I speak their languages,” Chen said. “I speak Cantonese, I speak Mandarin — so when they see me, it is like seeing friends or family.”

Chen, a candidate for Edmonds City Council, works just down the street and visited the plaza at least once a week, he said, often walking from his office to grab lunch. He said he has seen how the plaza has been a place for people of various Asian backgrounds to come together.

“This is such a vibrant community up here,” said Mill Creek resident Robert Ha, a travel agent who works in Edmonds. “People drive from miles to come here. Great food. Good people.”

One of the damaged businesses, the State Farm Insurance office of Mark Choi, was popular among Korean and Chinese Americans.

Qin Xi’an Noodles is taped off Thursday. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Qin Xi’an Noodles is taped off Thursday. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

The Edmonds Chamber Foundation is raising money for people who worked in the plaza. The WISH Fund stands for “When Inconvenient Stuff Happens.” It’s a community relief program to help small businesses recover after a disaster.

On Thursday, the foundation presented a $1,000 check to restaurant owner Bufeng Gao at the Plum Tree Plaza. Gao’s restaurant, Qin Xi’an Noodles, was one of the most badly damaged in the fire.

Gao has run Qin for over five years, she said, serving northeastern-style Chinese cuisine, including hand-pulled noodles and handmade dumplings.

“I’m heartbroken,” Gao said in an interview Thursday, through an interpreter. “This restaurant means so much to my family.”

Edmonds Chamber of Commerce President Greg Urban said the foundation hopes to write checks to support all 14 businesses.

As it stood Friday afternoon, there wasn’t nearly enough money in the WISH Fund to do that. So the foundation is seeking donations to help people whose livelihoods have been taken away.

“A lot of people, when they want to help, they go shop at the business to support it,” Urban said. “This is a way — if people want to donate $10, $20 — to support these businesses right now.”

Donations to the WISH Fund are tax-deductible. Those interested in donating can do so on the chamber foundation website.

The owners of Qin are asking for donations through an online fundraiser.

The owners of Waroeng Jajanan are also asking for donations online.

Police said Monday the fire was determined to be arson through security footage and physical evidence. No further details had been released as of Friday. Tips can be directed to Edmonds police at 425-771-0212.

Ellen Dennis: 425-339-3486; edennis@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @reporterellen

Talk to us

More in Local News

A fatal accident the afternoon of Dec. 18 near Clinton ended with one of the cars involved bursting into flames. The driver of the fully engulfed car was outside of the vehicle by the time first responders arrived at the scene. (Whidbey News-Times/Submitted photo)
Lynnwood woman accused of killing 2 in 2021 Whidbey crash

A judge found probable cause existed to believe Danielle C. Cruz committed vehicular homicide in December.

Justin Blasko
Report on Monroe superintendent’s conduct delivered to school board

Employees accused Justin Blasko of fomenting a hostile workplace. Findings won’t be public for about two weeks or longer.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mukilteo in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Mukilteo man missing for over 24 hours found dead

Kook Byung Choi, 84, was found in woods near where he went missing in Mukilteo.

Hundreds gather to listen to a lineup of guest speakers during Snohomish County’s “Bans Off Our Bodies” rally Saturday, May 14, 2022, outside the county courthouse in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Everett rally draws 400-plus abortion rights supporters

Saturday’s rally was part of “Bans Off Our Bodies” protests in response to the impending overturn of Roe v. Wade.

Andrew Cain Kristovich (Snohomish County Sheriff's Office)
Oregon fugitive with Snohomish County ties arrested in Nevada

Andrew Cain Kristovich escaped from a federal prison camp in April. He was considered armed and dangerous.

Public bathrooms downtown, cleanup program approved by Everett council

The City Council voted on how to spend $1.1 million in relief funds, including a three-year “Clean Everett” plan.

Aly Richards warms up during a skateboard workshop Thursday evening at Wiggum Hollows Park in Everett, Washington on April 28, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
At free skate clinic, Everett kids do sweet tricks and more

It’s offered through the Boys and Girls Club, and there are still slots open. So grab a skateboard and get rolling.

Chickens on pasture at Skylight Farms in Snohomish. (Petrina Fisher)
As bird flu spreads to 7 counties, Snohomish County farms on watch

No cases of avian flu have been confirmed here. But its arrival could be devastating for poultry farmers.

A ferryboat. (Washington State Ferries)
Mukilteo-Clinton ferry riders get their two-boat service back

The Edmonds-Kingston route could be next, depending on COVID-19 cases and crew shortages.

Most Read