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Luck changes for the better as Vietnamese family shares in lottery prize

May 14, 1987|LARRY ALTMAN | Times Staff Writer

Members of the Edward Yip family knew they were lucky 12 years ago when they had the chance to flee Vietnam to seek a better life in the United States.

On April 29, 1975, the day before Saigon fell, the family left its homeland with no money and virtually no possessions. Casting their lot with about 300 other Vietnamese people, the Yips sailed on a small boat to the Philippines.

Eventually, they settled in Alhambra.

"We never had anything," Ann Wu, wife of Edward Yip, said through her interpreter, daughter Mary.

Now, the Yips, who own the Quang Hoa Supermarket, have received the good fortune they were hoping to find in the form of a windfall from the California Lottery.

Thanks to a recent change in lottery rules, retailers selling Lotto tickets may collect an amount equal to one-half of 1% of a winning jackpot. On April 25, Thomas Y. Fu of San Gabriel won $3.2 million, which translated into $16,000 for the Yips. They received their check last week during a celebration at the market and now display a souvenir check in the store's window.

"We thank the American government and the American people. America is very good," said Wu. "We're just happy to have the lucky customer in our store."

Instead of spending the money on a vacation, a car or some other luxury, the Yips made a business decision: They put all the money into a campaign to advertise their store, which sells Asian and American foods.

Since April 26, the couple has run ads in the community's Chinese and English newspapers proclaiming the store as the luckiest place in town. They tell of their millionaire customer and two others who have won $5,000 prizes.

"It's so more customers will come in here to buy the Lotto," Mary Yip said.

Wu said business has increased since the advertising campaign began as customers try to see if the store can bring them luck, too.

"Everybody wants to come to a lucky place," Mary Yip said.

In Vietnam, the Yips ran an electronic appliance store in Saigon, but the war changed their lives. Wu said the American government hired them to help provide aid to people in Saigon. Wu said she and her husband spent the war importing food, clothes and other aid for the Vietnamese people.

After their escape from Vietnam, the Yips flew to Guam and eventually went to New York in a sponsorship program.

When the Yips got to New York, they worked at part-time jobs and went to school to learn English. After about three months, Mary Yip said, they decided they had enough money to move to Southern California.

While the children went to school, the Yips worked at various jobs.

The family's American dream started to become a reality in 1979 when Wu and her husband had saved enough money to buy an Alhambra grocery store.

"She was always dreaming of having a retail store," Mary Yip said.

Since then, the Yips have opened stores in San Gabriel and Monterey Park, which provide jobs for their seven children and their spouses. All of the Yips have become U.S. citizens.

"We're very, very happy," Wu said. "I hope every customer has a good life."

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