Some Asian business owners report decline amid Coronavirus paranoia, others hope it doesn't hit them

Posted at 6:23 PM, Feb 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-27 19:28:09-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Outbreaks like the coronavirus can cause a lot of worry and even paranoia, whether among people with health concerns or those who shape global economic markets.

Here in the Kansas City area, Asian-owned businesses hope the outbreak, which originated in the Hubei Provice of China, doesn't negatively affect their business. But it might already be happening.

The workers in Sassy Nails in Westport see the updates about the coronavirus outbreak on TV and try to stay as up-to-date as possible.

Manager Vicky Kim Nguyen said she's not worried yet.

"We're not like a big city — like big travel, like California or San Francisco or Houston — not at all," Nguyen said. "Our business still works and is doing well."

Still, she and other Sassy Nails staff have heard national reports of Asian-owned businesses on the a decline, including restaurants in Chinese neighborhoods in San Francisco and Chicago, amid the conronavirus outbreak.

One business owner, who is Vietnamese, told 41 Action News all he has to do is go outside and cough and people will panic.

That hasn't happened yet at Sassy Nails.

"So far, our customers are our regular customers, and they know who we are," Nguyen said. "We are Vietnamese and they already know. Our customers still come in, and they didn't discuss that at all."

And they hope it doesn't ever happen to them or in Kansas City, but the concern lingers.

Fang Shen, president of the Asian Chamber of Commerce of Kansas City, said non-Asians sometimes lump all people of Asian descent into one category, which can contribute to negative stereotypes.

"People really need to understand that the virus originated from China and is now spreading in a couple countries in Asia, but that doesn't mean the Asian community in America is having a higher risk," Shen said.

She said the assumption already started hurting some business owners she's spoken with.

"We know some of the members of our Asian businesses are suffering, because we know a lot of restaurants or barber shops, for example, or even grocery stores are seeing less patrons because people are scared," Shen said. "So, I think it is definitely time for support to those community members."

But this fear is not only within the non-Asian population, Shen said.

Many members of the Asian community also are scared, because Shen said they are more likely to be keeping close tabs on latest coronavirus updates, especially those who may have family still in Asia or know people who recently traveled there for Chinese New Year.

"Unless you've traveled to China, it's not based on race or nationality, because it originated geographically," Shen said. "So, only if you recently traveled to those places, that (has) a higher risk."