Site  by Lynne Landwehr 2004







The Ah Louis Store (continued)


The Ah Louis Family

Ah Louis and his wife Eng Gon Ying (1869-1909), whom he married in 1889, were the parents of eight children, all born in the family's living quarters above the store.  The youngest child, Howard, still owns the store today.  Thus, just two generations of this remarkable family span California's history from the days of the gold miners, through the construction of the railroads and the years of the Chinese Exclusion acts, and on up to the present.


Howard and Yvonne Louis

Howard Louis, the youngest Louis child, was born in a room above the store in 1908.  He grew up helping around the store and on his father's seed and vegetable farms.  In high school, he found time to excel in football, wrestling, and track.  Howard went on to study economics and transportation at the University of California/Berkeley, and married Yvonne Sam of Vancouver, British Columbia.

The War Years

During World War II, Howard served in the 354th Infantry Regiment with the 89th Infantry Division (known as the "Rolling W").  At 32 years of age in 1941, he was the oldest in his regiment, but he could still outrun the 18-year-olds, due to his days of running track in San Luis Obispo.  In the infantry, everything had to be carried in packs on the back, so Howard was glad of the muscles he had developed by hoisting 50-pound-bags of rice in his father's store.  

Click here to read a letter written from Germany
in April, 1945, from Howard to his wife Yvonne.

Howard Louis, right, with two Army buddies in 1944

Keeping the Family Business Alive

After the war, Howard returned to San Luis Obispo, where Yvonne had kept the store going during his absence.  Gradually they shifted the focus of the business from groceries, herbs, and clothing, to the import and sale of Chinese art objects and gift items.  Howard's expertise in this field is widely respected, and he is equally known for his kindness, generosity, and humor, and for the feisty spirit he displayed as he fought to save the Ah Louis Store from condemnation in the early 1950s, when the City wanted the property for a parking lot.  Fortunately, Howard won out, and the store still stands--a tangible reminder of early San Luis Obispo's Chinatown.  Visitors have come from all over the world to visit this State Historical Landmark #802, and to enjoy Howard's enthusiastic stories about growing up in a small California Chinatown.  All who know Howard are grateful for his willingness to share his memories of his family and of Palm Street's early Chinatown.





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Click here to read 1934 Touring Topics interview with Ah Louis.



Copyright 2004 Lynne Landwehr.  All rights reserved.