Local Vendor Overcomes Many Barriers

From China, with love, comes Rose Lee Ding, and husband David. They operate Yellow Rose Secondhand Boutique in San Carlos and this is part of their story.

Rose Lee Ding, who emigrated from China with her parents in 1983, had a language problem when she was introduced to soccer. Her teammates tried helping her by teaching her some English phrases.

"I didn't understand why I was getting so many red cards," she said. "I thought I was saying something nice. I finally learned I was saying a bad word. I got picked on but that made me learn the language faster. I adapted."

There is nothing wrong with Ding's English these days as she and husband, David Ding, manage her business on El Camino Real in San Carlos. In fact, there's a terrific story about how Rose and David met that would be better told by her. She loves to talk, unless customers just wish to browse her secondhand boutique, "Yellow Rose," which has been open since April.

Her shop, sort of tucked away in a strip mall near the corner of El Camino Real and Hull, usually features a rack of clothing on the sidewalk, but not much signage. The store itself, though not large, contains a multitude of things artfully decorated.

"I'm already thinking about expanding," she said. "I want to get into furniture."

Her loyal group of customers understand the work she has put into the shop. Yellow is her favorite color, which featured throughout the store. The racks of clothing, and other knick knacks on tables, are splendid in appearance, the result of an architecture design course she took while at College of San Mateo.

"That's when I realized I was good at something," said the Aragon High grad. "We had a project of redesigning the entrance to CSM that would encapsulate the school. We had three weeks to complete the assignment and with three days left I still couldn't think of anything. Then the time came for me to present my design, I was so scared that I waited until I was the last one, and I had a simple presentation of three podiums set among three small circles of rocks."

Her instructor called her a genius, her friends called her lucky, but it was exactly the kind of thing that caused her to believe in herself, even if she still managed to procrastinate quite a bit.

"I always want to find the easiest way to resolve an issue," she said. "I never graduated from college but education opened the door for me. After all that I knew it was up to me."

Lee Ding volunteered at Mills Hospital and worked as a waitress at ABC in Foster City. Both jobs were eye-openers for her.

"I used to get free burgers and fries at Mills," Lee Ding said. "That was awesome. But I would also talk about life with people of all ages and that was nice. As a waitress I learned I liked to work more than go to school."

Still, Lee Ding took courses at San Diego State and San Jose State before quitting to start her own business.

"I love the old times, even as far back as the 20s and 30s," she said. "That's when the United States still made quality products and it was something to be proud of that we could support our own country. I want to provide quality service in my store. It's not just a thrift shop. It's like enjoying a boutique that is thrifty. Why can't cheap come with service? You're still serving a customer."

Yellow Rose Secondhand Boutique
104 El Camino Real
San Carlos, CA 94070
Open Daily, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.


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