Two months ago, Paris resident and business owner, Lee Nguyen, described the impending health crisis with one word – scary. But now, another word has given him reason for optimism – love.
Mr. Nguyen owns and operates Paradise Café, a Vietnamese Pho and Asian fusion restaurant, which has been in business for more than 18 years, along with his daughter Kelly. Two months ago, Mr. Nguyen, like many restaurateurs around the country, faced a troubling prospect about the future of his business. “When it first happened, it was kind of scary. It happened fast and we had to get ready to shut down our in-person dining.” Mr. Nguyen then learned that he could still operate on a limited basis, with carryout orders for curbside pickup.
Shortly after the initial shutdown, Mr. Nguyen was approached by Shawn Burns of Community Ventures. “Shawn came and talked to us about how they could help. He asked me if he could make a video for us to promote our business.” After filming a short video about the restaurant, Shawn posted the video on social media. “After the video went up, lots of people saw it and they came to help and show support.” In fact, the restaurant began getting an outpouring of support from the community, with people placing orders for pickup. “That was my first time making a video like that. Shawn was very comfortable to work with. It was like we were friends even though we had just met. Shawn helped us out a lot.”
As business continued to come in, Mr. Nguyen learned of additional support available to businesses in the form of relief loans. Ultimately, he decided not to apply. “I’m making it okay. I wanted to let someone else who needs it more get the chance to apply.” It’s that kind of giving spirit that Mr. Nguyen says represents Paris. “Living in a small town like Paris, you know its not about the material things or the financial things, but the love we have. People have sent me a lot of love.”
While the long term prospects are uncertain, Mr. Nguyen remains hopeful and optimistic about the future of his restaurant. “It’s very sad and stressful, because you know there are people out of jobs. But for us, we’ve received a lot. When you give a lot of love, you get a lot of love. We’ve received lots of letters from customers, people saying the miss the place and can’t wait to come back.”