The two met when Lawson was his gym trainer and they became friends. Zhu joined him in opening the Royal 27 gym.
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“Thanks to my gym partner. He gave me the idea. One night he came over to my apartment and said he was interested in starting another gym,” Zhu said, adding he called his parents to talk about and sold his car to raise some of the money he needed.
Sweet Heart serves Asian desserts, cakes and breads and bubble tea, a Chinese drink favorite Zhu calls Asian-style coffee.
He said dessert businesses are popular in Asian countries and hopes his new store in Oxford will draw the Chinese students at Miami as well as others who want to experience something popular in his home country.
“Desserts…Chinese and Asian people increase more and more. I know Asians really like dessert (businesses). I also wanted to make Chinese culture and American culture be more together,” Zhu said. “(Chinese students) come to a new (unfamiliar) country. They can come here and eat dessert and talk and build relationships.”
He called Sweet Heart “a silent place” where people can gather and talk without a lot of background sound for a more relaxing break.
Zhu has been in this country for seven years, attending high school in Maine and then Miami University. He will graduate from Miami in May.
While he just opened his business, and actually plans a second business opening next month, he will head home to China after graduation and keep tabs on his businesses from a distance with visits back here.
“I will go back to China. My family has only one kid—me—and they want me to come home,” he said. “I have been in the U.S. for seven years. I do not know, in China, what is going on.”
Zhu smiled at the irony of being involved in a gym business and also a dessert business.
“You work to lose weight and then eat dessert,” he said.
Sweet Heart has a third partner—another Miami senior about to graduate in May—Xiaokun Wang.
Zhu said he does not have specific plans for his return home to China but expects to leave his local businesses in the hands of others who will handle things and he hopes to return regularly for visits. He and five partners are planning to open another business soon, serving dim sum, which is described as “a style of Chinese cuisine prepared as small bite-sized portions of food served in small steamer baskets or on small plates. Dim sum dishes are usually served with tea and together form a full tea brunch.”
He said dim sum is a tradition from Hong Kong, usually served in the morning and again, with people getting together.