Editor’s note: A couple of days ago we mentioned a street fair taking place Saturday to drum up business for Chinatown shops and restaurants struggling after Hurricane Sandy. But not everyone thinks the event is the best way to make the neighborhood’s small businesses stronger. Among them: Nom Wah Tea Parlor owner (and TLD contributor) Wilson Tang. Here are his thoughts on the “Chinatown Revival Fair.”
Chinatown holds a special place in my heart. It’s where I grew up, it’s where I work and own a business, and I’m proud to be part of this community. Whether I’m pointing tourists in the right direction, seeing my doctor or dentist in Chinatown, buying produce or “pigging out,” I’m a big advocate for “keeping it local.”
From my vantage point, it’s not hard to see the obstacles Chinatown’s small business owners face, especially restaurant operators. They’re constantly chasing the dream instead of living the dream — with the lowest profit margins imaginable. Think about what it’s like making a living selling $1 dumplings and $3 lunch boxes. I speak from first hand experience. In 2004, I opened a bakery on Allen Street, near Hester, but eventually closed the place because I wasn’t getting the volume to survive on 60 cent coffees and 80 cent pastries. Working 80 plus hours a week wasn’t doing me any good either. As fixed costs increase and rents continue to go up, you don’t have a chance in this neighborhood unless you’re doing huge volume.
Earlier this week, the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, along with the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, announced they were holding a street fair this weekend to help local businesses recover from the losses sustained during and after Hurricane Sandy. On face value, I thought it was a good idea to promote small business in my neighborhood during a really tough time. It seemed like a great way to get people down to Chinatown to spend money and to help out the local economy.