Fear has spiked across the nation due to the COVID-19 or coronavirus pandemic outbreak. Many civilians are skeptical of leaving their houses for basic needs because the anxiety of coming into contact with an infected individual who may or may not be showing symptoms. Businesses everywhere in the United States are strained from the loss of customers.
With the spread of mass hysteria, misinformation and rumors about the origin of the virus have generated feelings of xenophobia for some individuals. Whether Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, or etc. Asian-American owned businesses are dealing with the most fallout, left with little to no customers.
Many of Asian restaurants and businesses have shortened their normal hours dramatically, while others have been forced to close down until further notice. It is a tragedy to watch once flourishing, high-potential businesses be forced to file bankruptcy during this increasingly difficult time.
Owner of the Korea Garden restaurant located on is owned by Kong Hong, a Korean-American entrepreneur.
“Normally, we [Korea Garden] would have at least 60-100 customers a day, but right now we may have a maximum of 10 customers on a good day. Like today, I’ve only had 3 customers,” Hong said. “I’m not even making 10% of my average.”
Hong mentioned that her family is from Korea, and that she had been monitoring the flow of the virus months before it was announced as a global pandemic. She says her family worries for her safety in America, but she said that reassures them about her wellbeing.
“I was worried watching the news and seeing the amount of racism. My parents continuously tell me ‘Don’t go outside’, but I still have a business to run. Luckily, I have not had a problem so far, so I hope it stays this way.”
Hong also said that she is trying to save her business by posting about her business on Facebook, Yelp, and Google. She said she wants her customers to know that the restaurant is still open.
“I feel like this is the only way I can connect with the customers right now. I’m not sure how much longer I can stay open, or how much longer the city will allow us to be open,” said Hong.
Grocery store owner Sammie Rentz and his Vietnamese wife Hong Tran have operated their store Viet Huong for years in Savannah. They said business has never been so slow for their store.
“It [business slowing down] didn’t happen until early last week actually. A lot of our customers have stopped coming in…right now my customers look for a USDA or an American-made symbol before buying their items. If they have the slightest idea that it may come from China, then they don’t want to buy it. It’s very sad to see,” said Rentz.
Rentz and Tran said that they don’t have any current plans to ensure they keep their business thriving.
“I don’t have any plans. I can’t make any. I had plans before, but I’ve had to put them on hold while this pandemic runs, because nothing is moving out the store. I had planned to open more stores in the area, but it doesn’t look like the best time,” said Rentz.
The couple said that they have experienced racism in their shop before the pandemic hit.
“It’s not uncommon to us, but it certainly won’t stop our business. We still encourage all into our store, and we are still open for business until someone tells us to shut it down,” said Rentz.
Time will tell how and for how long Savannah’s Asian-owned businesses will continue to operate during this pandemic.