In Chinatown, Immigrant Shopkeepers Fare the Worst [OP-ED]

Posted on: May 1st, 2020 at 5:14 am by

Photo: Karlin Chan

In an encouraging sign, some Chinatown shops have started reopening after six weeks of Covid-19 lockdown.

The governor’s ban on non-essentials and public gatherings forced most businesses to the sidelines, but several restaurants offered takeout and three supermarkets stayed open. In a welcome sign, three back-to-back dessert places on Bayard Street returned to the fray – Chinatown Ice Cream FactoryYi-Fang Tea and Sweet House. This week, they were joined by Yue Wong BBQ also on Bayard, Tokyo Mart, and Chinatown’s favorite fruit stand on the corner of Canal.

Photo: Karlin Chan

The ban on non-essential business has created confusion for many immigrant shopkeepers. Especially those who have no access to the internet or who had difficulty navigating the English-language application process for small business loans and grants offered by the stimulus package. Some owners sheltered at home were not even aware of these grants and loans due to a breakdown within the community in dessimating the information.

Photo: Karlin Chan

While some business associations may maintain a database of member shopkeeper information, most are not members and were left in the dark. One would hope moving forward, once the lockdown is lifted, a nonprofit or community based organization would populate a contact database of all Chinatown business names, addresses and owners to prepare for the next emergency.

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