Sunday, February 16, 2020

Support your local businesses during the Coronavirus crisis

As soon as I heard that there was an outbreak of an infectious disease in China, I knew it was only a matter of time before people would start looking at Chinese Americans like they were all carriers. I also suspected that it would be bad for some businesses, particularly those in Boston's Chinatown. I heard a story on the radio last week that confirmed my suspicions, and with that in mind I brought one of my fifteen year olds to Chinatown last Tuesday to show our support.

Even with my deep cynicism, I was shocked.

This is one of the busiest grocery stores in Chinatown, and usually I'm stepping out of everyone's way, regardless of the day of the week. As you can see, I could have danced through the produce aisles and no one would have said anything.
This is Hei La Moon, a well-known restaurant in Chinatown. This angle makes it look emptier than it was; in reality, there was one table of customers. However, there were still more waitstaff.
We also went to get boba tea - my son loves it - and then lunch at a restaurant called Pho Pasteur. For some reason, being a Vietnamese establishment didn't matter; as was the case in the boba shop and the above restaurant, there were still more waitstaff than customers.

I came back home shaken, and my son and I agreed that Chinatown was now a ghost town. So imagine my relief when I received an email from Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu inviting me to dim sum at China Pearl this past Saturday for ten dollars at the door. My husband, son, and I jumped at the chance. (We also contributed a little extra, because I knew they would eat much more than that.) Here's what that looked like.

This is what it should look like.
I wanted to violate only so many people's privacy, so there's only this one picture, but the place was packed, so much so that I started worrying that we should leave so other people wouldn't have to wait for a seat in the cold lobby.

I was heartened to hear Councilor Wu describe the event as part of an effort to support local businesses while combating racism and misinformation. My favorite place to buy housewares is in Chinatown, but I am always wary of admitting that. "Buy Local" conjures up images of buying artisanal, handcrafted products made in a local workshop, but it also includes buying imported products from a locally owned business. And yes, some of those businesses are owned and operated by recent immigrants, and they need your dollars as much as any other local business.

When we walked back to the car after dim sum, I noticed that at least one newish business was shuttered. New businesses in Boston, especially restaurants, have a tough road in store for them, but they don't usually fold in that area in under a year. It pains me to think about what losing that business cost the people who were planning on running it.

Before I go, let me say that people are absolutely right that they should be taking precautions with their health, because there is a very real, very frightening public health problem now: the flu, which thus far has killed at least 14,000 people in the United States. Please follow whatever advice your medical provider has offered. And in case you're wondering, as of this writing, only fifteen cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19, to be exact) have been confirmed in the US.

Deb in the City

1 comment:

  1. Stopped by to eat at Muy Thai Vegan cafe and it was packed.