King Kai Chin, 82, an entrepreneur and expert in Chinese herbs and medicines who came to Chinatown 57 years ago and helped to build the community there, died Friday, April 11, of cancer at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.
Mr. Chin had only the clothes on his back and $50 in his pocket when he and his brother, Jong Kai Chin, arrived in this country in 1957, seeking a new life.
He left behind his wife, Chiu Fong, and sons Ken and Keith, as well as a career as a teacher, and a bookstore he had founded. He brought his family to the United States two years later.
Educated in Guangzhou, China, at the Chinese Herbs and Medicinal College in 1952, he had skills that were in demand here. Chinese community leaders wanted herbal remedies for ailments when Western medicine could not help residents, his family said.
"In terms of Chinese medicine, he was very dedicated, consumed, and spent lots of time to learn and research," said his son Ken in a tribute.
But Mr. Chin's real talent was in business. In 1961, he opened the China Coffee Shop on 10th Street north of Race Street. It became an instant hit for dumplings and noodles.
In 1962, he opened a cannery for wonton soup, employing workers from North and West Philadelphia.
The soup was sold at grocery stores; Mr. Chin used part of the proceeds to provide free food for soup kitchens and Holy Redeemer Catholic School children.
In 1963, Mr. Chin opened Philadelphia's first Chinese movie theater in the 100 block of North Ninth Street. He followed that a year later by opening the China City Restaurant on Race Street.
In 1967, Mr. Chin acquired Philadelphia's first Chinese grocery store, Wing On, and used it as a base to develop a plan for growing bean sprouts. The sprouts were distributed wholesale to Chinese restaurants. The grocery closed in 1975.
Mr. Chin also was active in philanthropy. He supported area organizations as well as individuals who needed help with tuition, debt, medical expenses, food, or seed money.
"Through his charitable efforts, he showed how a small community can grow to its [present] health, vitality, and size today," his son wrote in the tribute.
Mr. Chin's first wife died in 1982. Surviving, besides his sons and brother, are his wife, Maggie Zheng; six grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.
A visitation at 9 a.m. Thursday, May 1, will be followed by a memorial service at 11 at the Choi Funeral Home, 247 N. 12th St. Interment will be in Hillside Cemetery, Abington.
Donations may be made to American Cancer Society via www.www.cancer.org/.