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Community helps burglarized New Haven restaurant recover

The owner described the thoughts of seeing her storefront damaged on March 21st. A thief smashed the front door taking cash from the register.

NEW HAVEN, Conn — A locally owned restaurant and grocery in New Haven is receiving the support they never expected. 

Oriental Pantry located just a few blocks from the New Haven Green on Orange Street is the oldest Asian grocery in the city. The Korean grocery and restaurant have been hit by some tough times and unfortunately, matters got worse when someone broke in smashing the front door. 

"I didn’t expect a break-in and when I come here, I was so, so sad and heartbroken," said owner Yoonock Kim. 

Kim described the thoughts of seeing her storefront damaged on March 21st. A thief smashed the front door taking cash from the register.  

Oriental Pantry was already in financial distress from the COVID-19 pandemic. Kim says she was behind on rent payments and had no choice but let go of part-time staff to run the 36-year-old shop on her own.  

"Very difficult economically. My customers just haven’t come," said Kim. 

Kim with help of the Kitchen Relaunch initiative started a GoFundMe to raise $2,000 to pay for the damages. What she didn’t expect was the community she loves so much to raise nearly $14,000 for her.   

"I was so happy," said Kim. "I can pay off everything and fixing and if there’s some leftover, I would like to expand."

Expanding with outdoor seating, upgrading kitchen equipment, and moving into the digital age. The last part coming in with help from Kitchen Relaunch Ambassadors.  

"Without them, I cannot survive," said Kim. 

The local initiative created by Rise Community Capital seeks to help minority-owned businesses create the digital, contactless food model so important to today’s restaurant industry.  

"Just being able to support so they can do what they do best which is running their business and making their amazing food and serving the local community," said Kitchen Relaunch Ambassador Kayley Estoesta. 

It’s also given some local college students the chance to connect with shop owners like Kim in a special environment.  

"Being Korean-American myself what it means to build intergenerational relationships to connect with my own culture in a way and also how to understand as a young person how I build meaningful relationships in my community. It starts with what I can offer," said Kitchen Relaunch Ambassador Lauren Kim. 

Kitchen Relaunch currently helps three restaurants in the city and hopes to expand to more cities in the future. They are also looking for more ambassadors. You can apply to be an ambassador or nominate a business by going here

Donate to Oriental Pantry's GoFundMe here.

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