Ah Louis Store to mark 150 years with cultural performances, cuisine, activities, and the city’s first-ever drone light show.

SAN LUIS OBISPO — One of the last remaining original buildings in San Luis Obispo’s historic Chinatown, the Ah Louis Store, is celebrating its 150-year anniversary in 2024, the Year of the Dragon. To honor this anniversary along with San Luis Obispo’s Chinese heritage, the Ah Louis Store has partnered with the City of SLO to bring the community a free Lunar New Year Palm Street Block Party on Saturday, Feb. 10.

“As the occupants of this historic building that was once the center of a bustling Chinatown, we are honored to bring this commemorative event to our community,” said Amber Karson, co-owner of Karson Butler Events and current Ah Louis Store retailer. “I am so grateful for the city’s partnership and the opportunity to honor On Wong (Ah Louis) and his family’s legacy of celebration on Palm Street. ”

The Block Party will take place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 10, and will include family-friendly activities, educational and inspirational demonstrations, fare from multiple Asian food vendors, and a performance by the Cal Poly Lion Dance Team. Arguably the most exciting and novel component of the celebration will come at the end of the Block Party with a drone light show at 6:30 p.m. — marking the city’s first-ever of its kind. A large component of Lunar New Year’s celebrations included fireworks, and this custom aerial performance is another nod to tradition.


“We are thrilled to be supporting the Lunar New Year celebrations,” said Molly Cano, economic development and tourism manager for the City of SLO. “At one time San Luis Obispo had the largest Chinese community in California. They were integral in building our city, and it has been incredible to see how organizations and businesses across the community have come together to help honor our past and celebrate Chinese culture in SLO.”

A partial street closure will occur on Palm Street in front of the Ah Louis Store for the duration of the event, with the parking garage entrance and exit remaining accessible. Other businesses in historic Chinatown, including Mee Heng Low, the Palm Theatre, and Hotel San Luis Obispo, will be activating for the Block Party. Residents and visitors alike are encouraged to join the daylong festivities and explore the rest of downtown, where numerous businesses will also be celebrating the Lunar New Year.

Passive activations will remain throughout the month of February, including lanterns and lighting along Palm Street and an homage to a Paifang or a decorative Chinese archway adjacent to the Ah Louis Store. In addition, the city has been working to restore the original sign from Chong’s Candy Store, a Chinatown business that has been crafting handmade candy for decades. Installation began in late January on the Palm parking structure and, once finished, will include interpretive panels that share the history of the original building and Chinese contribution to San Luis Obispo.

For more information and to view the schedule of events, visit SLOChinatownHistoricDistrict.com.

Feature Image: The Ah Louis Store is partnering with the City of SLO to bring the community a free Lunar New Year Palm Street Block Party on Saturday, Feb. 10. Contributed Photo