Chinatown businesses deal with pandemic and construction

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- It's an early start before the lunch crowd at popular Mexican restaurant La Elegante.

"It started off kind of slow, but we're steadily picking up again. We've been doing alright. I was able to keep most of my workers on and we're just keeping busy," said Abel Arenas, owner at La Elegante.

The restaurant has taken precautions to keep serving up hungry customers. Arenas says he's able to apply for loans to help his business.

The Chinatown district is made up of 18 blocks that are home to businesses and abandoned buildings between Downtown Fresno and Highway 99.

Right now, the area has seen many road construction projects that have deterred some customers.

"Chinatown is a place everyone forgot. The infrastructure is not strong. Businesses have come and gone over the years. The ones that are here are so resilient," said Jan Minami, Chinatown Fresno Foundation Executive Director

Minami says about two-thirds of the businesses are owned or managed by minorities.

Alex Cervantes has taken over both of his family businesses, Panderia Vista Hermosa and Kris' Meat market next door, working long hours to survive during the pandemic.

"The bills don't wait so we have to pay. I serve a good God and he didn't set me up to fail. I know I'll get through this and I have hope," Cervantes said about what gets him through this time.

Close to a dozen restaurants and half a dozen barbershops call Chinatown home.

The group's web site also shows which restaurants are doing takeout.
Officials say they're trying to help owners find grants through the city or loans. They'll most likely have $10,000 from the Central Valley Community Foundation to help struggling shops.

Owners tell Action News that despite the many challenges they've faced from the recession to the pandemic, they're even more determined to succeed and bring Chinatown back to life.
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