Episode 1 Our Chinatown

Chinatown means many things to the business owners and residents who call the community home — long days, back-breaking work, a painful past, belonging, resilience, opportunity, the American dream. And as they look to the future, legacy. In Our Chinatown, legacy business owners reflect on 2020 and the importance of family as a throughline of Chi...
Apr 18, 2024 — 2 min read

About this video series

Asian-Owned Businesses

Asian-Owned Businesses

There are endless layers to the Asian-American entrepreneurial experience. Learn about a few Asian-owned businesses shaping our communities.

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Jefferson Li: I have never seen Chinatown as empty as it was this past year

John Yee: With the pandemic hit everything. Just China became a ghost town.

Speaker 3: There was almost no foot traffic in the community, so we had to close our stores

Alice Liu: Over the past year. It was hard. I had to juggle my three kids. We didn't have customers coming out, and we actually decided to close down.

John Yee: If we closed both places, I don't think we could survive, but we took a chance to kept Tonii open, and that gave us some business.

Alice Liu: The store's future was so unstable that we were wondering if this business was going to continue, if we were going to be able to pass it on. Chinatown is a product of isolation and exclusion. We had to make our own community and make our own neighborhood. For my parents as non-English speaking immigrants, this is the only place where they can exist without giving away all of themselves.

Zhong Liu: From the moment I first came to New York, I really liked Chinatown. It has grown its own culture, and combined with traditional Chinese culture. 

Jefferson Li: Chinatown, I'm going to try my best to do what I can for my family so that my kids can go to college and climb the next rung up in the ladder.

Liz Yee: I went to college for psychology and I minored in education. I was going to try to be a teacher. My parents actually didn't want us to get into a store. They wanted us to go off and do our own things, but we just kind of got pulled back here. 

Alice Liu: My whole generation were the ones who were always encouraged to get that white collar job, leave Chinatown. Those people who followed that route, they realized that home front now is threatened. A lot of those people are trying to volunteer, trying to bring their skills and their resources to help Chinatown.

Jefferson Li: Legacy is extremely important. My family went through a lot when they came to America, and it's kind of a waste, I think, to let that go.

Alice Liu: But I do see a lot of younger people taking on their family's business, which gives me a lot of hope.

Jefferson Li: The outpouring of love for the Asian community has shown that there are people that do care about Chinatown, that do care about the legacy. People have turned their sights back towards Chinatown, back towards home.

Zhong Liu: If they take over the business that their parents started, you would still have in Chinatown. You don't take over it and then you lose the storefront. What becomes next? Nobody knows.

Liz Yee: I realized how important my family is, how I want to be around them everyday.

Alice Liu: My family's store will continue to exist. I am dedicated to making that happen.


There are endless layers to the Asian-American entrepreneurial experience. Learn about 8 Asian-owned businesses shaping our communities.

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Episode 2 Dear Dad

Apr 18, 2024 — 1 min read

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