Roger H. Chen (Chinese: 陳河源; pinyin: Chén Héyuán) is a Taiwanese-born American businessman. He is the founder and CEO of Tawa Supermarket Inc. and Man Wah Supermarkets. He immigrated to the United States in his 30s established the 99 Ranch Market chain, specializing in Asian and Asian American foodstuffs and retail to the mainstream American population. Since the stores first opening in 1984, he became involved in the food product manufacturing and real estate development aspects of the store. Through various license agreements, there have been numerous 99 Ranch supermarkets established in other states around America as well as internationally.
Life and career
Chen was born and raised in Taiwan in the 1950s and 1960s - an era where there was political turmoil between Taiwan and Mainland China. He studied received a Bachelor of Science in agriculture and business at the National Taiwan University in Taipei. Chen would then branch out into international trade and the shipping business and came to Southern California regularly to import American cars to Taiwan. During this time, Chen also became acquainted with Frank Jao, a real estate developer who was largely responsible to for the establishment of a little Saigon in Westminster California. He immigrated to the United States in 1983 with his family and settled in Fountain Valley, California and then the neighboring Anaheim Hills, California. His first attempt to enter the shipping business was unsuccessful as he would export cars and computers to Taiwan from the United States but couldn't compete with already well-established exporters.
The 99 Ranch market chain
99 Ranch Market in Spring Branch, Houston
Through observing many "mom-and-pop" grocery stores within the Vietnamese community in the Orange region of Southern California, Chen would then come upon the idea of opening a Western-style grocery store chain that sold Asian foodstuffs. With $1 million from savings and investments, he opened the first Man Wah Supermarket in 1984. Both Chen and his partner confronted many business challenges while working on the job and the stores became an immediate success and grossed more than $2 million after its first year of operation.
In 1985, Chen incorporated his company under the name, Tawa Supermarkets, Inc. and would even begin engaging in the development of its own food products. Chen would then approach Union Bank to open a second store, given the success that he encountered with the first store. He was then able to secure sufficient funding for his 99 Price Market (where it became the brand name for his eventual 99 Ranch market chain). By 1988, Chen then convinced Taiwanese investors to construct a retail complex that was able to accommodate restaurants and stores and as well as a 36,000-square foot supermarket in Rowland Heights, a suburb that was located in the Eastern part of Rowland Heights, where the suburb was located east of the well-known Chinese American community of Monterey Park. It was during this time that Chen would then rename his supermarket chain, the "99 Ranch Market". Since 1988, 99 Ranch Market chains have opened across the United States with stores located in areas such as San Gabriel, Hawaii, Las Vegas, Nevada, Seattle, Washington, and Phoenix, Arizona. Tawa Supermarkets has also released its development its very own food products such as Kimbo, 99, Sinbo, I-Pin, and Flying Horse on Earth. Stores have also opened internationally in Jakarta, Indonesia and other 99 Ranch openings in Hong Kong and Taiwan are also coming into fruition.