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At least 17 Chinatown restaurants and 139 ground-floor stores have permanently closed during the pandemic, Mr. Chen said. Some streets are lined with shuttered storefronts and “for rent” signs.
Wing on Wo & Co., a family-run store that has sold porcelain bowls and vases for more than a century, temporarily closed and turned to online sales as its business dropped by as much as 40 percent. “A lot of folks love our store and come to our store because of the experience of walking into our physical storefront and being able to touch and feel the porcelain,” said Mei Lum, 30, the owner, adding that it allows them to “feel a connection to home” and “a sense of old Chinatown.”
While foot traffic has started to gradually pick up, many business and community leaders worry that many of those working from home may not return and that some tourists and visitors will continue to steer clear of Chinatown because of an outbreak that has fanned racism, xenophobia and violence against Asian-Americans around the country.
“We are going to have to do a multiprong, multiphase approach to recovery,” Mr. Chen said.
Chinatown has actually had a lower rate of confirmed coronavirus cases than the city on average, according to a New York Times database.
Jing Fong was not just the largest restaurant in Chinatown — it was also a foothold to a better life for immigrant workers who often toil unseen in kitchens and dining rooms. It was the only unionized restaurant in Chinatown — and one of the few in New York — after more than a decade of efforts by its workers to secure better pay and working conditions.