SYRACUSE, New York (NCC NEWS) — In Taste of Asia, a Thai and Vietnamese restaurant on Marshall Street, giggling is drifting over the top of the front counter.
Then one of owner Stan Chen’s young daughters, Lila, comes flying around the corner, ponytail in toe, her father in heavy pursuit. She has homework to do, after all.
The quick game of chase is a welcome respite from a harsh economic reality that has fallen on so many small business owners. Chen’s decade-long ownership of this restaurant has never been near this close to faltering.
“We went from making money like we’re supposed to, to maybe 10% of what we should be making at the same time,” said Chen.
Any business would be on red alert with these kinds of losses, especially when it only naturally makes a profit for part of the year.
“Business on Marshall Street is different than all the businesses in the neighborhood areas,” said Chen. “Here on Marshall Street, we make money seven months out of the whole year.”
“That’s when we make enough money to save up to get us through the summertime,” said Chen.
The small business loans from the government have run out, leaving owners like Chen working with skeleton crews and figuring out which bills to pay first to keep the doors open. It’s an exercise in treading water with no end in sight.
But, Lila doesn’t know that. She just gets to spend more time with dad.
She told me as much, but when the camera came out it was a little too scary.
Her two siblings are about the restaurant as well, with Chen homeschooling them while schools fluctuate from online to in-person depending on COVID numbers. When he’s not thanking customers, they are draped over him like a blanket, and it’s not just dad.
“The [employees] here have been awesome,” said Chen. “Some help with math homework, some read to them.”
In a time of uncertainty and financial strife for a Marshall Street staple, the whole staff has Lila and co. to thank for the smiles.