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KimThai Garden shares love of Thai culture through plants | AAPI Spotlight
Nestled in Los Angeles' Chinatown district, KimThai Garden expresses one of the special aspects of Thai culture. 
By Stu Jackson May 07, 2021
Photographs By Jeff Lewis/ LA Rams

Throughout the month of May – also known as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month – the Rams will be spotlighting four Certified #RamsHouse small businesses that belong to the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. Up first: KimThai Garden.

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Near the corner of Spring St. and Alpine St. in the Chinatown district of downtown Los Angeles sits a tranquil plant nursery called KimThai Garden.

Each one is potted with care by brothers Jimmy Minh and Sunday Sok, symbolic of one of their culture's values.

"One good thing I really respect about Thai people is we're very family-oriented, very close, and we love people," Sok told earlier this week. "And we always want to show it in any way like plants, food, helping each other. But usually what Thai people are all about is peace and love."

The business – a Certified #RamsHouse – has been around for two and a half years. It's just a couple stores down from KimThai Oriental, which was founded nearly 16 years ago by the brothers' aunts and uncles and sells "oriental art and crafts," according to Minh.

According to Sok, their aunts and uncles saw plants becoming more popular in Los Angeles. That has also especially been true during the pandemic. That original pre-pandemic observation of the trend led to them opening KimThai Garden.

"(Our aunts and uncles) were the ones who started this whole KimThai business," Sok said. "The oriental side, of course, captures the aspect of Feng Shui stuff like fountains, Buddha heads, Buddha statues, just a lot of Feng Shui oriental arts that really captures a lot of Asian American culture, and that's what they promote in themselves."

The Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) culture in L.A. and especially Chinatown is "really big," according to Sok.

"It's really big in this city. Especially Chinatown, it's so big about the Asian community," Sok said. "We've got a lot of Asian customers. We've got customers who have come in since they were small."

"So that's what Chinatown is," Sok said. "When you hear about Chinatown, you think about a swap meet vibe, right? But now, ever since then, everything's been a little bit more updated, of course, and current with our timing.

That support has been felt from customers and non-customers recently. Minh said he's noticed the AAPI community come together in wake of the rise in Anti-Asian Hate Crimes in Los Angeles and across the county.

"We've been working together as one," Minh said.

Combined, both Sok and Minh's anecdotes illustrate two key ways that they recommend combating Anti-Asian Hate.

Sok encourages people to shop local.

"We really, really put our hard work into it, and you can see it," Sok said. "You can see the quality, right? Just doing that will make so much of a difference. Just supporting local businesses. It doesn't have to be us, it can just be anybody in this area."

"I mean, it's not just Asian, it's different races as well," Minh said. "So just appreciate the people who are around you. Just appreciate little things, and look at things in the bigger picture. Stop the hate, just love and that's all we need. Because we have enough with COVID and everything already. So want more love, it doesn't hurt anyone."

"Just love and that’s all we need."

Along those same lines, being attentive goes a long way in terms of being a strong ally to the AAPI community.

"If you could lend a hand, please lend a hand," Sok said. "One of the biggest thing you guys can do is like my brother says, just stop the hate in general. It doesn't have to be Asian. He doesn't have to be anything targeted. There's so much hate in this world that affects so many people, and especially minorities are the ones who and there's just not Asians. So if somebody needs you to be of service, just be united as one."

KimThai Garden

Address: 421 N Spring St #168H, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Special events: During the Chinese New Year, Sok said they offer special plants like Chinese bamboo and others seasonal to the holiday.

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