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Asian-owned businesses seeing dip in business due to pandemic and other factors

Published: Oct. 28, 2020 at 8:23 PM CDT
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - The novel coronavirus pandemic has hit minority-owned businesses disproportionately hard.

A report from August by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found two in three minority small businesses were concerned about having to permanently close their business. That’s compared to 57% for non-minority businesses.

Some local Asian-owned businesses are feeling the impacts. The number of customers coming through the doors of Asia Plus and Teamo Tea, in Iowa City, has dropped significantly.

“It’s definitely a lot slower for us,” Sydney Ji, manager at Asia Plus, said.

“Compared to the past few years, it’s slower for sure," Dingyu Ding, Teamo Tea Owner, said.

Ji said the main reason is they are not seeing their main customer base of students from the University of Iowa.

“A lot of international students have left the country and gone back to their original country so we lost a lot of domestic customers for sure," Ji said.

On a larger scale, Ji said she’s seen how the Asian community has been negatively affected by the language being to describe the virus, by the President and others calling it the “China virus” or “Wuhan virus”.

“The Asian community has definitely been hit by the language that has been used," Ji said. “If they could change the language as we use, COVID-19, that would definitely help the Asian community for sure seeing as we’re not the ones that caused the virus.”

Ding said she also feels even though Iowa City is a diverse community, people in other places have used that rhetoric and have given people misguided views and fears when it comes to the virus.

“We have different countries here united in America and so I feel like we need to respect each other about the country and language as well, because we are all human beings and in pandemic together," Ding said.

Sarah Frank, an economics lecturer at the University of Iowa, said xenophobia could be a factor as to why nationally more Asian businesses are seeing less business but there’s no way to know the exact cause.

“We know that there have been documented incidents of anti-Asian and anti-Chinese racism in the wake of the pandemic and rising levels of anti-Chinese sentiment," Frank said.

Frank said biases based on misleading information can have long term negative impacts.

“Once people pick up biases they can linger for a long time, so it seems possible that that could have a longer running impact on Asian-owned businesses than non-Asian owned businesses, but we’ll have to wait to see after the pandemic," Frank said.

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