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  • Writer's pictureKathy Chin Leong

Tane Chan

Owner of The Wok Shop

How has the virus changed Chinatown?

It is so desolate and sad for me. I see so many people usually; it is a social and friendly community. Everyone respects each other and is there, able to help one another if they have to. I told the sausage company three doors over to bring in their orders, and I could help ship it for them. Everyone is closed on our street. Our gates are closed.

What has been the biggest shift in your business?

We are not open to walk-ins now. But we do our online business. We are in the store packing and shipping, and on-line saved us. Online has increased by 20 percent, but it does not make up for walk-in business. And it has been slow-period, but I kept my people on the payroll. They still have a paycheck.

How has the virus impacted those you serve?

All are sheltered now and interested in cooking. Restaurants are closed. It is a good time for people to cook since they have nowhere to go. A lot of them are trying something new. They go online and search for woks, and we are up there in the search engine. When they click, they see our prices in comparison to others, and ours are going to come out ahead. They will get a real wok from us. People do not ask for recipes, but they ask about seasoning a wok. I tell them and answer every email promptly.

How has this impacted you personally?

I am fine doing what we are doing. In 1999, my son put me online. That is the best thing he ever did for me. At work, I’m aware of keeping my distance, and we wear masks. It has worked out. Three employees come in, and we pack our orders to get them out. We stay about four hours. I still go in 7 days a week.

What will it take for Chinatown to recover?

I feel for all the merchants. They depend on this, their family-run business. It is almost catastrophic. They already get a little paycheck, and they have little income. I will be surprised if businesses actually shut down permanently. I still can pay my rent. I’m happy and keep it simple.

For Chinatown to survive, it will take tourists to come back, we depend on them. Chinatown is unique, and it is not made just for tourists. It is a living community. It is not fake.

We are bordered by the financial district, North Beach, and hotels and downtown. You think about it, we have so much here. Things will come back. How can it not? It is a given. It is part of the fabric of San Francisco. Walk to Portsmouth and see the little Chinese ladies from the SROs. They can enjoy friendships and play cards. It is a social thing. They are content to be in America and to be in Chinatown and have good location and weather. They have everything, and the immigrants from China are so happy. They don’t care they live in an in SRO. Chinese sacrifice a lot. They are can-do people.

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