In the Community: Galaxy KTV Karaoke Covers It All in AsiaTown
Written By Mark Oprea
Photography By Breanna Kulkin
Shing Ruan likes space — a lot. As the owner of Cleveland’s very first 4,500-square-foot, Chinese-style karaoke bar, the entrepreneur felt it would be as sizable as ones in Hong Kong when he saw the former beauty supply store on East 30th. He envisioned Galaxy KTC, which opened in early June, decorated inch-to-inch with crystalline tables and planetary walls, he says, because “I want it to be open to the world; like Vegas.”
Hence, Ruan went big. A feat only possible, he says, in an affordable spot like AsiaTown.
“It’s bigger than those in Chicago,” he said, a week or so before Galaxy’s grand opening. “They don’t have the space, like in New York, because of how expensive the rent is. Some of them there are very small — only half of this room.”
His videographer who produced Galaxy’s promo videos, Johnny Wu, added that AsiaTown’s seminal “karaoke box” may in fact be “the largest of its kind in the Midwest.”
A former 12-year manager of the Li Wah restaurant in AsiaTown plaza, Ruan’s decision to birth the ethnic district’s one-upper to a regular dive bar karaoke night is nearly two decades in the making. Ever since Ruan moved with his wife from Hong Kong in 1999, he dreamed of one day opening the city’s largest karaoke hub, a pipe dream that crystalized five years ago when the former office space became free for rent. Last July, Ruan’s blueprints—which he modeled “half off of China, half from my own brain”—transitioned to build and a six-month renovation process began. This summer, Galaxy meets world.
Though Ruan and Wu are anxious about area demand for an authentic place like Galaxy, its proponents are calmed by the interior’s stupefying glitz and glam. Walking past a sword-wielding General Kwong, through a vault-like bronze door, one encounters a main hall decked out, like most of Galaxy, in Chinese-imported accoutrements: leather banquettes, lounge-style couches, electric blue lit-up cocktail tables.
Go further, and Galaxy sports nine (no Room #4, as per Chinese superstition) private rooms, each with its own cosmic theme—from a computer-chip VIP room to holographic radioactive decor—and 42-inch Samsung LCD screens and high-tech sound systems. Poke a button by the TV and a server will be at your room with drink orders before the mic drops.
“And the doors are all soundproof,” Ruan says. “So, you can party like crazy and no one outside will hear. If you want,” Ruan jokes, “you can take a nap here!”
As far as track selection itself, Galaxy’s repertory spans the world. Over 200,000 songs in ten different languages, from English to Korean to Spanish, are stored in each of the ten computer systems. Everything from Garth Brooks to Tito Puente to Ruan’s “go-to,” Jackie Chan (who’s apparently an occasional pop singer in China). All of the songs will have the option for subtitles, along with the capability of Internet updates, so Galaxy will stay relevant, whether it be for a teen’s sweet sixteen, a grad’s big hurrah or Wu’s 50th birthday party. After all, Galaxy is open to all.
Yet Ruan’s moonwalk into new AsiaTown territory isn’t without its uncertainties. He’ll be advertising at nearby Cleveland State and Case Western universities for the college crowd, and hoping businessmen close deals in between at lunch hour. For food, he’s opting for one-half American snacks (peanuts, Coke, potato chips) and Chinese appetizers (dried mango, shredded squid, Chrysanthemum tea), along with a full bar of spirits and bottle beers, which Ruan will be helping serve behind counter himself. As far as a cover charge, Galaxy is $10 a pop, with $40 for a private room per hour — not bad considering there’s none other like it.
As far as Galaxy mingling with Night Market’s third-annual kickoff, Ruan’s not certain how his baby will be affected. He’s unsure whether or not festival-goers will walk the ten or so blocks just to sing “Bohemian Rhapsody,” yet is assured the true lovers of the half-foot stage will. Nevertheless, Ruan is confident that, if anything, Galaxy’s pull for AsiaTown newbies will only popularize a budding neighborhood in the coming years.
“Galaxy definitely should,” he says. “This area? It needs a place like this. And if it does that well? Maybe I’ll open one in Columbus.”