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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to annemarie@southernfoodways.org.

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ORAL HISTORY

Joe Dan Yee, owner


Yee's Food Land

After graduating with a degree in marketing at the University of Arkansas, Joe Dan Yee could have gone to Dallas, maybe gotten a job with a big department store there. He had already interviewed for a job and been accepted, but in the end, he gave all that up to go back home to Lake Village, Arkansas, to take over the store his father built with his brother, Joe-Joe. He has never looked back.

Hanging above the checkout lanes of Yee’s Food Land, you can find an aging photograph of three generations of the Yee family. There are the father and mother who started the store back in the early fifties and the children who run it today. For more than sixty years, the Yees have owned and operated a grocery store in the Arkansas Delta town of Lake Village. The town may have changed around them, but the Yees still pride themselves on the same hometown service that has kept them in business for so many years.

What has also remained unchanged is the family’s commitment to preserving their Chinese heritage. Both Joe Dan and his siblings can speak Cantonese, something his parents insisted they learn growing up. And twice a day you can find them all eating a hot, multi-course Chinese meal (all prepared by his sister, Xing) in the back of the their store. Joe says his mother, who is ninety-six, wouldn’t have it any other way.

Date of interview:
2010-08-25

Interviewer:
Jung Min (Kevin) Kim

Photographer:
Jung Min (Kevin) Kim

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The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.

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