Early Thursday morning in Queens, a Japanese grocery store known as Taiyo Foods caught fire. The flames spread quickly to neighboring businesses, many of which were owned by Asian American business owners.
The other four damaged businesses were Korean fried chicken restaurant Mad for Chicken, Nepalese restaurant Bajeko Sekuna, Yeserith Esthetics, and Mad Cafe.
According to the Sunnyside Post, the fire grew quickly and was classified as a ‘four-alarm’ within an hour. Over 200 firefighters and EMS personnel responded, and three firefighters suffered minor injuries.
Though nobody else was hurt, the fire devastated the businesses and livelihoods of the store owners. Taiyo Foods owner Toshiaki Takahaski spoke to CBS in tears. “When I was coming here, already start a lot of smoking. Fire from another restaurant. I cannot take care of anything.”
The storeowners’ grief has been compounded by the stressors of the past year. Because of the pandemic, many small businesses across the nation had to shut down. The diversity of the Sunnyside fire victims are reminiscent of the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on minorities, who make up a large number of small business owners. The five affected by the fire showed their resilience and worked tirelessly to regain what they had lost.
Being an essential worker, Takahaski opened the store every day. “We open every day, I never closing. Of course, including the pandemic, a lot of people come here,” said Takahaski to CBS. “I tried my best.”
Takahaski gave away salvaged items to community members, who, in turn, gave donations. The community has also set up a GoFundMe to support the small businesses.
A second Go Fund Me page has been set up specifically for Taiyo.
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