Brief history of Phoenix’s Sun Mercantile Building

Phoenix Chinese Week Committee.[Source: Kevin Weight, City of Phoenix Historic Preservation Office, October 12, 2005] — The building that houses the Phoenix Suns Athletic Club was constructed in 1929 as the Sun Mercantile Building.  It has been individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places since September 1985 and the Phoenix Historic Property Register since March 1987.

The Sun Mercantile Building was constructed by Wells & Sons and designed by E.W. Bacon.  Bacon was a city building inspector and building administrator during the 1920s.  The entire building was equipped with a water sprinkler system and fire alarms tied to the city alarm system.  Although not in the City’s warehouse district overlay, the building is located on East Jackson Street in the heart of the warehouse district that developed along the railroad tracks during the early decades of the 20th century.  The building is also highly significant as the first and only known warehouse built and owned by a Chinese-born businessman in Phoenix.  In 1910 Tang Shing came to Phoenix from Canton, China, via San Francisco and set up a grocery business at 622 S. 7th Avenue.  He married American-born Lucy Sing in 1914, and with her help became a successful and prominent businessman.  He established the Sun Mercantile Company and supplied many neighboring towns with merchandise.  He was the first distributor of Del Monte products in Arizona and helped Safeway and Basha’s, among many other businesses, to become established.  As a result, he was not only a leading Chinese citizen but was well respected by the non-Chinese.

The Sun Mercantile Company soon became the largest wholesale grocery house in Phoenix.  In April 1929, when the company moved into its new $80,000 facilities at Jackson and 3rd Streets, the newspaper noted that it had “the most diversified line of any general jobbing merchandise house in the state” (Arizona Republican, April 5, 1929).  The history of the Sun Mercantile and its remarkable growth has been called “an outstanding chapter in the business and development of Phoenix and the Salt River Valley” (Gary Tipton, “Men Out of China,” Journal of Arizona History, 1977).





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