CHICAGO (CBS) — At the start of the pandemic, Chinatown was hit particularly hard.
Now, months later, as Phase 4 gets started, CBS 2’s Marissa Parra went to see what has and hasn’t changed.
If you drove through Chinatown last week, you might have seen a lot of boarded windows, but it turns out that was just preventative. And a lot of businesses in the community are doing better than they were.
For Chiu Quon owner Matthew Chiu, the sound of customers walking in is a welcome one after a rough few months.
“We’re the oldest bakery in Chinatown, the oldest Chinese bakery in Chicago probably. We’ve been here since 1986,” Chiu said. “Before we closed, the business just died in Chinatown. People were avoiding Chinatown.
When COVID-19 first reared its head into local consciousness, racism surrounding the origins of the virus rippled throughout the country to Chicago’s Chinatown.
“It bothers me because it really affects the community,” Chiu said. “And it really hurts our reputation when people say stuff like that.”
Chiu said he and other business owners would hear racist remarks.
“Chinatown, the business was down so much in the beginning. It was down 90% or 80%,” according to Mabel Moy of the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce.
That was back in March. At the end of the month, Chiu Quon bakery closed along with so many others in the city and across the country.
“I thought it was gonna be really short term and it ended up being two months,” he said.
They feared for their health and they feared for their business. But then on Mother’s Day, little by little, it started to look like it did before, with some minor tweaks.
“Face masks on. Everyone’s wearing gloves,” Chiu said.
Moy said carry-out and delivery helped boost business in Chinatown by 30%. To her knowledge, she says roughly two or three Chinatown restaurants may not reopen. The rest are getting their plans underway and already welcoming new guests.
“Everybody seems excited trying to get everything ready to welcome people back to Chinatown,” Moy said.
As for Chiu, after the wild ride that’s been the past few months, he’s just taking everything a day at a time.
“I just want to be able to feed my employees and feed my families,” he said. “I just want to be able to survive. I’m not too optimistic, but that’s all I can ask for.”