Credit: The Pak Family, Owner Rex Pak with his family

DALLAS (KDAF) —  For the month of AAPI, we are highlighting different Asian-owned businesses in the Dallas area.

It is in the spirit of celebration and community that we shine a spotlight on local businesses, aiming to highlight their contributions to the local economy and the shaping of the cultural fabric in the city.

The story of how Aloha Chicken and Shrimp came to be is an inspiring one in deed. Owner Rex Pak, shares a fascinating story of determination and commitment. Inspired by Pak’s extensive travel and constant dining out, he wanted to create a restaurant that no matter what, “the food when eaten in the restaurant, it’s just really outstanding. It’s really good. And if someone takes it to go, you know, it’s still pretty good,” Pak expressed.

After his wife became pregnant and months of living off savings, a small gas station with a kitchen in it would alter his family’s life for better. The owner of the gas station challenged Rex saying if he believed he could cook better food, he would provide six months of free rent.

The local Exxon Mobil would later become the birthplace of the original Aloha Chicken and Shrimp in Watauga, TX. Rex accepted the challenge and flew to Hawaii with his wife and children to receive a crash course in cooking from his wife’s family.

Chicken Katsu

Self described as a Korean-American from Southern California, his wife was the complete opposite; born in Korea with roots in Hawaii. “I’m from California. She’s from Hawaii. And so I actually lived in Hawaii for a couple of years. My wife grew up in Hawaii. So I think there’s a significant difference,” he said. “Between people who just live in Hawaii, and people who actually grew up in Hawaii. I don’t think you can just live in Hawaii and understand, like, their traditions and the food there.”

The courses paid off, as the inspiration of Hawaiian culture can be seen and tasted through the food and even treatment of employees as family. Pak would eventually go on to buy the gas station before handing it down to one of his trusted employees, Jasmin Reyes.

Business was slow at first. “I think for a long time, sometimes, you know, I would sit there all day long, and I wouldn’t sell anything,” he said. However, after a Facebook post on Asian Grub DFDUB, the eatery went viral overnight.

Original Combo Plate

Now customers line up for their raved about macaroni salad, shrimp and his wife’s homemade teriyaki sauce. Their second location is now open in Richardson and has been catering to those in the Dallas area. His advice for any minority wanting to start a business is simple, be different.

“I tell people to work smart. There’s a difference between working hard and working smart. Especially if you’re a minority, you have to be different. That is it right there, you’ve got to be different, and you have to work smart, doesn’t matter how hard you work, because your efforts could go unnoticed if you’re not different. No matter how different you are… if it’s good enough, it’ll catch on,” he said.