Lin Shu Ming, owner of Pho Grand, is happy to be back in business. Closed for almost three weeks after the devastating Chinatown fire, he lost $2000-$3000 each day and had to throw out $10,000 in spoiled food. But at least he’s open. Late last week, the city finally removed the barricades keeping people from accessing businesses on Grand, between Eldridge and Forsyth.
Pho Grand is on the south side of the street, just beyond 283 and 285 Grand, the two buildings that were condemned and torn down after the fire. On Friday, only a couple of tables were occupied in the Vietnamese restaurant, a popular neighborhood destination for 12 years. Ming said lots of his customers lived in those demolished buildings. Others arrived by car – but since Grand Street is still closed to automobiles – they’ll be forced to park some distance away.
Across the street, Fateng Chen has similar concerns. The owner of Tumei Fashion, Inc., he’s been selling bedding and clothing at this location for six years. Before the fire, it was a bustling spot. Customers in search of bargains sifted through merchandise, piled from floor to ceiling. On Friday, there were only a few stragglers.
Chen said he’s also worried about the loss of a lot of good customers in the destroyed buildings. Making matters worse, he’s a wholesale distributor, dependent on receiving a steady supply of new garments. Today he was expecting a 40-foot container to arrive, but since there’s no loading on Grand, Chen had no idea how he’d get the shipment in the store.
Both business owners have received low-interest loans from Asian Americans for Equality. 13 other businesses have also applied for the emergency loans. Ming and Chen says it may be the only assistance they get. Since the businesses were not damaged in the fire, they can’t file an insurance claim, and there’s no government help available, either.