“There is a reason why Calgary Chinatown has been around for 110 years. The community has been through the ups and downs and they’re very resilient. They know what the mountains and hurdles are, but they can just think up so many different ways to survive.”
Grace Su, the chairperson for the Calgary Chinatown BIA (CBIA), has seen firsthand the strength and perseverance of Chinatown business owners shine brighter than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was tough,” Grace says, “there was a stigma surrounding Chinatown when news of COVID-19 first appeared and people didn’t want to come down.” Starting in December, Grace could already see the businesses being affected, but when Alberta went into lockdown in March, she could see how they stepped up and were working hard to change, to re-evaluate what they could do to keep themselves up and running, including staying open but only for takeout and delivery.
Grace can hardly stop smiling as she mentions how proud she is of the business owners who have used their entrepreneurial skills and creativity to ensure the perfect balance between being able to provide the best of service while making sure that safety measures are kept in place for customers who are dining in.
“In Chinatown, everybody knows everyone.” Grace says with a grin, “you can really feel the community spirit here. It’s a place that is able to bring people together, no matter where they’re from.”
For many Calgarians, Chinatown is the place to be for a diverse array of food options. From Sunday morning dim sum to late-night eats after a night out, or even if you’re looking to satisfy your sweet tooth, there is something for everyone! However, for residents living in and around Chinatown, the community feels just like home.
“It serves as a unique place for many Asian immigrants upon their arrival in Calgary. For many of its residents, Chinatown is a safe space where they can comfortably converse in their native language and be able to carry out their daily tasks without much trouble.”
2020 has proved to be vastly different for us all. As for Calgary Chinatown, as many as five major annual events, such as the Chinatown Street Festival, have been cancelled. But, here is the good news: the CBIA aims to host a lantern festival in time for the Mid-Autumn Festival where bright installations will be on display around Chinatown to beautify the community and to attract more visitors to come down and check out all the great things Chinatown has to offer.
The CBIA also has had and is currently carrying out a couple of social media campaigns. The scavenger hunt held on Instagram had participants identify special and iconic landmarks around the community and win some prizes in the process, while the Chinatown Welcomes You campaign highlights businesses and their stories from around the community! They are also sponsors of our AddOilYYC campaign that is telling the stories of the community’s business owners while helping Chinatown get more visitors!
“I’m thrilled to see youth who are interested in participating in community work and hope that many more will be able to get involved and contribute to a successful community!”
Author and Interviewer: Rachel Wong
Photos: William Leung
Producer: Brian Wong