Coffee shops
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2008.040.018 Oral History Interview with Mr. and Mrs. Chan March 7, 2008

Mr. and Mrs. Chan, founders and owners of the long established and renowned coffee shop and restaurant, Mei Lai Wah, in New Yorks Chinatown, are both Taishan natives, who claim that New York, especially their restaurant, is home to them. Upon arrival, Mr. Chan was employed at a bakery, the culinary training from which he later applied to his own business, Mei Lai Wah. Mr. Chan explains that he runs his business like a family and has not changed anything since he first opened it in 1968. He celebrates that his employees, who are also from the same village as Mr. Chan, have stayed with the business since its opening. As a result of rising rent, Mr. and Mrs. Chan have witnessed family-owned business closures and fear that the increasing expense of living in Chinatown may drive Chinese immigrants to settle outside of the unique cultural community. Despite their concerns over rent increases and their employees increasing age, both Mr. and Mrs. Chan hope to sustain their beloved business for as long as possible. Ultimately, when Mr. and Mrs. Chan decide to retire, they will not be handing down the restaurant to their children since none of them have expressed interest in continuing the operations of the business or living in Chinatown.