HomeAsian AmericansAfter fire, Yu & Me Books searches for temporary home.

After fire, Yu & Me Books searches for temporary home.


By Shirley L Ng

Clean-up is underway at the Yu & Me Bookstore in New York’s Chinatown.

It’s been over a week since the Yu & Me Bookstore and apartments at 44 and 42 Mulberry Street were damaged in a fire that is still under investigation,

An emergency clean-up crew was seen last Saturday at the significantly damaged bookstore at 44 Mulberry Street. Lucy Yu, owner of Yu & Me Bookstore has been there every day, trying to pick up the pieces of what is left of her beloved Chinatown bookstore.

Exterior of Yu & Me after the fire shows surprisingly little damage
Yu & Me Bookstore closed after fire. Photo: Shirley L. Ng

On the day of the fire, Yu thought the smell of the smoke was of Fourth of July fireworks from outside.

“I didn’t know that there was a fire until a neighbor from upstairs came down to inform me and told me to get out, that there is a fire,” Yu told AsAmNews. Yu then made sure the 10 customers in her store got out safely. She said was reading a book at the time when the fire broke out and left it on the counter. When it was safe enough to return inside, the book was soaked with water.

Interior view of Yu & Me Bookstore on July 7 after the fourth of July fire. Photo: Shirley L. Ng

According to the emergency fire service, they told Yu it would take a year to complete the gut renovation because of the extreme water damage. She said all the walls and ceilings need to be removed and to have the wood dried to prevent mold.

A day after the fire, Yu launched a Gofundme with a goal of raising $150,000 to eventually get the bookstore up and running again. In an amazing show of love and support to this tiny 1000-square-foot bookstore, donors have raised over $141,000 in about three hours. It has already more than doubled the amount raised as of today at over $331,000 at the time of this story.

Actor Simu Liu posted a comment on the Yu & Me Bookstore Instagram account when it shared that the bookstore was damaged by a fire in the building. Courtesy: Yu & Me Bookstore Instagram

Yu was emotionally moved by how quickly the money was raised. “I have no other words. I just feel absolutely speechless. We reached our Gofundme goal in four hours. It just completely blew me away, it completely blew my mind. It was an outpouring of love in a way the community showed for this very very tiny bookstore. I just never experienced anything like it. I don’t know,… it’s hard so I’m so thankful for the way people have shown their love and warmth to me through this entire time,” she told to AsAmNews.

Author, Jean Chen Ho with Lucy Yu at Yu & Me Bookstore, June 2022. Courtesy: Yu & Me Bookstore Instagram.

The events that were already on the bookstore’s calendar must unfortunately be rescheduled now. Yu is determined to keep the events going at a pop-up space if she can find any in the area. The spirit of the bookstore must stay alive!

Local Chinatown resident and crime writer, Henry Chang at the Yu & Me Bookstore with his books in December 2021. Courtesy: Yu & Me Bookstore Instagram

Yu has heard from writers from all over expressing their support including Min Jin Lee, author of Pachinko, and Free Food for Millionaires. Actor Simu Liu and Little Fires Everywhere, author Celeste Ng each donated $5,000 in a show of support.

Yu said the fire began in Frank Yee’s apartment directly above her bookstore.

“We saw our neighbor get taken out of the building and his dog passed away.” Yee is in his 70s and was listed in critical condition in a local hospital, an FDNY report said. AsAmNews has not been able to confirm Yee’s current condition.

Gloria Moy, a tenant of 44 Mulberry Street said as many as 10 families including herself were displaced. Moy was finally able to return to her apartment on Monday after staying with friends.

Actor Simu Liu with Lucy Yu during a book signing event at Yu & Me Bookstore in June 2022.
Courtesy: Yu & Me Bookstore Instagram

When the bookstore opened in 2021, a stir of excitement echoed throughout the Asian American community, especially in New York’s Chinatown. It was the first bookstore owned by an Asian American woman and the first bookstore in the area offering works by Asian American writers. It was during COVID-19 and while anti-Asian hate was still lingering heavily in our area when the bookstore opened. An Asian American bookstore opening during that time was a symbolic but important response to the xenophobia and the hate Asians were experiencing. To COVID-19, it was an “in your face” moment that the store would be rising during the pandemic in the heart of Chinatown.

Emergency fire services worker is seen removing debris from the Yu & Me Bookstore on July 8, 2023
Photo: Shirley L. Ng

Yu & Me was embraced and celebrated for its vital existence. Yu’s novel idea of a bookstore she always wanted to open gave representation to Asians that are often pigeonholed as only doctors, lawyers and engineers. However, her bookstore proved differently. Asian writers do exist and their books sell.

The bookstore rose quickly to also become a cozy venue of sorts, giving space to rising writers to share their stories, immigrant experience and creative talent.

Actor Simu Liu, and authors Jean Chen Ho held a book signing last year and local Chinatown resident and crime writer, Henry Chang delivered copies of his books when the bookstore opened. Not too long after some events in the store, it began to serve refreshments, and why not?

I told her when I first learned of Yu & Me Bookstore, it was like something hit me in the head and I said to myself, “Yeah.. wow.. this is so revolutionary. Why hasn’t this existed anywhere earlier?”

Yu told AsAmNews that she didn’t realize her bookstore would be so well received in the community. “I didn’t know the impact of the store. I just wanted to have a small bookstore and make someone smile, someone to feel at home. This has shown me it is way bigger than I give it credit for.”

You can find Yu at the store every day managing what is left behind. She has been able to move some inventory to a space Welcome to Chinatown provided. With the raised funds, she is looking for temporary pop-up space for events, continue to pay her employees, their health insurance, replace items and pay for necessary services. She is also eager to find a long-term home during the renovation and begin to reschedule her events soon.

Yu said the community can support Yu & Me Bookstore through Yu’s Gofundme, or make a purchase on the online store.

AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Follow us on FacebookX, InstagramTikTok and YouTube. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our efforts to produce diverse content about the AAPI communities. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.


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