With about 20,300 members and counting, the online Facebook group “Support the ID – Community United” has not only provided the International District (ID) and American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community a place to promote and support local businesses and resources during COVID-19, but it also fosters an online space for these communities and supporters to come together.
This page focuses on the ID’s grassroots community by conversing and promoting content. It has garnered attention from Asian American businesses and resources outside of the ID.
As of March 15, 2020, the page changed to their current name of “Support the ID – Community United,” which was in conjunction with Gov. Inslee’s announcement which required closure of restaurants and non-essential businesses or to opt for take-out and delivery services.
“Support the ID – Community United” extends outside of businesses, as this page has also given opening to ID and AAPI news and resources that many may not be aware of or have access to.
“Personally, the ‘Support the ID’ page has helped me realize the strong sentiment towards solidarity among the Asian American community, and I find it fitting to see it fueled through a shared love for food which I believe is deeply rooted in our cultural expression,” said Brianna Nguyen, daughter of the TAM Noodle Box family business located in First Hill.
When Gov. Inslee implemented the take-out and delivery only regulation for Washington restaurants and non-essential businesses, not every community business was able to easily adjust to the changes or had the utilities to do so. This has led to other relatives of family businesses posting to “Support the ID” on behalf of who they were helping represent.
Malissa Xiong, the daughter of Pike Place Market’s Lor Garden owners, said in their 28 years of running their floral business, they never had to consider using social media for business. But with the closure of Lor Garden’s vendor location, it’s hard for Xiong to see “all the flowers [her parents] planted get old, and then having to throw them away.”
“Closing [Pike’s Place Market] was like shutting down our business for good,” says Xiong. “[My mom] said, ‘Let’s try posting our business on social media.’ So we began posting our business on Facebook and thanks to one of our cousins, she introduced us to ‘Support the ID’ page.”
By moving into the social media sphere, Lor Garden is slowly regrowing their business through partnerships and customer support.
TAM Noodle Box, on the other hand, did not suffer the same rapid decline in business compared to its ID counterparts. Instead, there was a slow decline in business for TAM Noodle Box as they maintained business because of their location and majority of their patrons being hospital workers close to their vicinity. Alongside many other local businesses in First Hill, TAM Noodle Box was inspired to donate meals to frontline workers.
The burden many local businesses feel from self-promoting is alleviated through their customer support system. For Nguyen, she attributes current business marketing success to word of mouth and the trust that backs it. Word of mouth “has proven to be effective through the chain effect of people coming in, ordering food, and posting it on their social media.” Nguyen notes that Instagram stories have been the most effective in curating more business.
When it comes to fostering relationships with customers, “Support the ID” hosts a two-way communication portal which allows businesses to not only message their customers directly, but reach out to other businesses easier. The page also enables businesses to share their voice to “connect with the community and beyond.”
Besides promoting businesses, community support during instances of crime in the ID are also apparent. In business for over a decade, Ivy Chan and her parents’ Jade Garden restaurant plan on continuing their success despite obstacles.
Back in March, Jade Garden was vandalized and “Support the ID – Community United” helped connect community artists, led by Keoke Silvano, to Jade Garden. Together they helped board up the broken windows and paint them, and were thanked by Chan and her family with food.
Not too long after COVID-19 made its way into Seattle, the ID was and still is a target of racism and xenophobia.
“My brother posted about the Patriot Front stickers that were being placed all over Chinatown. He genuinely didn’t know who they were, so he just posted out of curiosity,” says Chan. “However, it was worrying because there were a handful of people in the group that ‘laugh’ or ‘love’ reacted to each of the stickers individually. Found out that there were people that supported a hate group in this community page.”
TAM Noodle Box “experienced a few broken windows, but nothing too severe” after recent protests in the district. Jade Garden had a different experience as Chan mentions during the first weekend of protests surveillance footage showed opportunists breaking into Jade Garden and heading for the register.
“It was a stressful night, but the wonderful people from Pho Bac and Drag and Drop Creative helped us board up that night,” wrote Chan via email.
The city of Seattle curfew from May 30th until June 3rd impacted these businesses as operating hours were cut shorter and led to slower business for Jade Garden and Lor Garden. In regards to the movement, “Support the ID” has updated its current “About” page to include:
“This page is more than an Asian restaurant directory to me,” writes Nguyen via email. “It’s a community that can facilitate conversation and action (just as it did in regards to the anti-Asian sentiments due to COVID), and I think it’s valuable for the page to adapt and let the community utilize their collective power to foster even more understanding and solidarity.”
“Support the ID” not only brings together customer and community support, but individual services and other businesses have been able to connect with one another through partnerships.
“There was a photographer, Miko Russell, who had posted in [the Facebook] page that she was donating photoshoots to help out local restaurants,” said Nguyen who reached out to Russell for her resources. “It was also a great social boost when she posted the photos onto the Support the ID page to see customers reacting and sharing positive sentiment towards our restaurant.”
As of recently, Jade Garden and Lor Garden have come together to mutually support one another in their business efforts with positive results thus far. After Chan saw posts of Lor Garden’s flowers on the Facebook page, she bought a few bouquets because of peony season. Chan’s mother saw the flowers and thought it would be nice to reach out to Lor Garden and offer support to help sell their bouquets due to the Pike Place closure.
Chan reached out to Xiong and worked out a system to sell bouquets through Jade Garden’s location — Xiong and her family would drop off bouquets to Chan where customers can buy Lor Garden bouquets alongside Jade Garden’s take-out food. Xiong was informed by Ivy that Jade Garden helped sell out four boxes of Lor Garden’s flowers (about 15 bouquets) on the first day of piloting the partnership. Now Lor Garden has been bringing 20-25 bouquets into Jade Garden every other day as this partnership has been successful and mutually beneficial for both businesses. Lor Garden also has two other partnerships selling about 50 bouquets daily between a farm in Kent and Rotary Grocery Store at Pike Place Market.
The Facebook page aims to create a supportive, digital community to bring together individuals and businesses during the pandemic.
“It’s amazing to feel support from something as simple as a like button. I think this page will continue to be a place where we can showcase Asian American businesses, and it’ll be interesting to see how it evolves post-pandemic,” said Nguyen.