Little Manila Businesses
Food and Lodging
By virtue of the sheer size of the population in Little Manila, hotels rose to be one of the prominent business ventures on S. El Dorado and E. Lafayette. As a result of the influx of Filipino migrants to Stockton and the legislation that prohibited them from owning property, many turned to hotels for both temporary and permanent living accommodations. These hotels provided Filipino migrants a cheap living solution while they sought more permanent dwellings and cost them around a dollar a night. Like most of the businesses in Little Manila, hotels were also multifunctional spaces. On some occasions hotels would even store migrant field workers’ trunks while they went to the fields for the planting and harvesting seasons. One of the most popular hotels in Little Manila was the Quezon hotel. This hotel was home to many Filipino migrant laborers and was also a permanent housing solution for those who could not own property.
Hotels were used as residencies for many Filipinos and their families who would have to travel for work. There were two types of hotels prominent in Little Manila, the single and residential hotel. The temporary and singular residency was preferred by single men laborers who were forced to travel with the crop, as different seasons required the migration to different areas of California’s agricultural belt. Single roomed hotels were a common place of business for prostitutes, who capitalized upon the loneliness of single Filipino men who were unable find a Filipina wife due to the prevailing gender imbalance and anti-miscegenation laws. Family units tended to reside in residential hotels that were geared towards sustaining a domestic lifestyle.
Restaurants in Little Manila were not only a place to eat, but also a community and culture hub. A variety of cuisines were found at the intersection of South El Dorado and East Lafayette, including Filipino, Chinese, and Japanese food. Filipino restaurants like the Lafayette Lunch Counter, the Luzon Café, and the Bataan Café were known for their traditional dishes and their sympathies to the struggling Filipino laborer. It was common for Filipino-managed businesses to employ other Filipinos and offer a line of credit to the impoverished, acting as informal banks. These restaurants also acted as a permanent mailing address for laborers who were forced to travel seasonally with the different crops. Chinese restaurants such as the Lucky Café, Gan Chy Restaurant, and Sin-Kee Chop Suey were widely desired for their chop suey, an American Chinese dish. These restaurants were also frequented by Filipinos who sought out different food products and are remnants of the Chinese influence in Little Manila. For instance, the Lucky Café offered Chinese language classes on the second floor of their restaurant. Japanese restaurants were near nonexistent in Little Manila after the late 1940s as a result of the Executive Order 9066, which interned the Japanese on the west coast into camps. When Japanese restaurateurs were unable to sustain their businesses during the period of wartime forced relocation, Filipino entrepreneurs capitalized by opening up their own restaurants and other businesses.
A variety of groceries, markets, and delicatessens were available to the residents and visitors of Little Manila. Grocers and markets such as Juanita’s and the Starfish Market offered a variety of American and Filipino products. The storefronts would be plastered with Coca-Cola and Pepsi advertisements, and inside products such as meat, fish, cigarettes, vegetables, dry and canned goods were being sold. Delicatessens, or delis, were quite different and offered both meats and prepared dishes. The delicatessens in Little Manila were predominantly Chinese, and offered foreign cuisines such as roast duck which used to be seen hanging in the windows of these stores.