Gin-ShueIn 1922, when he was 17 years old, Gin Shue inherited $2,000 from his paper father. A year later he used this money to open the Gin Shue Grocery Store on the corner of South 3rd Avenue and 17th Street in Tucson, Arizona, He paid his uncle $50 a month rent for the store and $75 a month for working in the store. In 1924 he made plans to take a trip to China to visit his mother and to get married. He went to the immigration station in Tucson and successfully obtained merchant status so he could bring his bride to the U.S. However, Gin Shue needed money for his trip to China. He got his money by secretly selling his business to his uncle for $1,500.Gin Shue departed San Francisco on December 29, 1924. In China he visited his mother, found a girl and got married. He returned to the U.S. on November 1925, alone Why didn’t Gin Shue bring his bride to America on his return trip? It may have been because his bride, Lee Sue Fong, was very young, no more than sixteen years old. She may have had trepidation about leaving the security of her homeland. This was a costly lost opportunity, as we shall see.

In April 1928 Gin Shue took a trip to China to celebrate his wife’s twentieth birthday. Classified as a laborer, he returned to the U.S. in 1929 alone. He made plans to gain merchant status so he could bring his wife to the U.S. He opened a restaurant named Shanghai Café at 10 South 4th Avenue. To the restaurant he attached a small grocery store. He hired a cook and a waitress to work in the restaurant. There was no need to hire anyone to work in the grocery store. He could go back and forth between the two businesses, wherever he was needed at the moment.

In 1933 Gin Shue went to the immigration station in Tucson to apply for merchant status on the grounds that he was now operating a grocery store. After extensive interviews with Gin Shue and several white witnesses, the Immigration Service denied his request for merchant status. They told him, “Any person connected with a restaurant in any manner whatsoever could not be classed as a merchant.” Gin Shue departed the U.S. on May 19, 1933 as a laborer and returned to the U.S. about a year later, once again alone.

Gin Shue was now more determined than ever to bring to the U.S. his wife and two children, whom he had conceived during his last two visits to China. He moved the Shanghai Café to 266 East Congress Street. He upgraded and modernized the interior of the restaurant and installed six tables and eight booths. He hired a crew of workers to work in the kitchen: Two cooks, kitchen helpers and a dishwasher. He also hired several waitresses for the dining room. In 1940 Gin Shue Once again applied for classification as a merchant. He asked several prominent white businessmen to serve as witnesses. They testified that Gin Shue had owned and operated the Shanghai Café for several years and had done no manual labor in the restaurant; all his activities had been confined to management of the business. The immigration inspector in charge of the case was obviously empathetic. He considered the Shanghai Café to be a first-class establishment. But most important, he recommended that Gin Shue be granted merchant status.

Successful in his quest for merchant status, Gin Shue hurriedly brought his family to the U.S. The happy couple wasted little time making up for the years of separation. Within a span of seven years they were blessed with five more children, a boy and four girls.

>> Back to Many Faces