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Davenport grocery store defies flood, serves customers by boat

Rising flood waters have reduced business at a Davenport grocery to a trickle. But the owners aren’t giving up.
Oriental Food Store

DAVENPORT, Iowa -- For ten years Quang Le and his wife Hien have owned and operated the Oriental Food Grocery Store in Davenport. But for the past couple of weeks, rising flood waters reduced business to a trickle.

"We are open. We  try to sell. but nobody is coming," Le said.

The Asian grocery store sits on the corner of West River Drive and Brown Street. By Sunday the Mississippi had reached up to the store's doorsteps on three sides.

The flooding is hitting this family hard. Oriental Food employs six members of Le's family. Le brings in fresh produce from Chicago every weekend, items customers can't find elsewhere in the Quad Cities like Thai basil or bitter melon gourds.

Whatever customers don't buy, "we eat it or we throw away," Le said.

On weekends, the Le family also runs a restaurant in one corner of store.

"No delivery, no carry out, no dine-in," either, Le said.

Still Le and his wife never considered closing the store even for a day.

"We got a lot to do in the back," the husband said. Half the warehouse where Le stores dry goods, boxes of noodles and sacks of rice, was submerged in water.

Every day is a race against the rising floodwater, he said. "First, we tried to do three pallets, than four, than five, than six." he said, "But still the water kept going."

Every day Le and his workers and family members stack the pallets higher and move all the boxes of products to even higher ground.

"That's what we do every day," he said.

Some brave customers defy flood warnings and ride through nearly knee-deep water to get to the store.

For others, Le's brother-in-law takes groceries across the water on an inflatable boat.

Le said his family has seen worse and they will ride out this flood as they do every year.

"We are never going nowhere. We will just stay here," he said. "It's a family business, so we have to do the best we can."