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Unemployment inspires Turlockers to open first business

POSTED December 24, 2009 2:24 p.m.
As businesses around Turlock are shutting their doors, one entrepreneurial Turlocker sees opportunity in a vacant storefront.
David Chong, who has never owned a business before, will open a new restaurant next week. Chong’s Chinese Cuisine, located at 1801 Countryside Dr., will brave the down economy to bring another dining choice to Turlockers.
“It’s kind of risky, but then on the other hand it’s a good chance,” Chong said. “I know the economy is tough, but I was able to buy (the restaurant) for a cheaper price.”
Chong said that he was only able to open the new restaurant because of the currently depressed economy. He and his wife, Ying Chong, had talked about opening a restaurant for some time, but they couldn’t afford it previously.
Chong learned that Kinnari Thai Cuisine was closing and jumped on the opportunity, investing most of his savings into opening his own restaurant in the location, adjacent to Foodmaxx.
Chong’s wife, Ying, will do the cooking and manage the day-to-day operation of the new restaurant. Chong says it’s his wife, a “40-something” who has been out of work for the past six months, who was the driving force behind the new restaurant.
In the current economic climate, Ying Chong has found job-hunting difficult. Rather than continuing the search for employment, the Chongs decided to open the restaurant and give Ying Chong the chance to run the restaurant she’s always wanted to.
“She doesn't want to stay home for the rest of her life,” Chong said.
The Chongs will hire a few employees to help with the new restaurant, including the chef from the old Kinnari Thai Cuisine restaurant. Chong says the hire will let the restaurant keep some of the more popular Thai dishes on the menu, while bringing in the best of Cantonese and Mandarin family recipes.
Chong, however, will continue to work his current day job with a local technology company after the restaurant opens. He says that putting all of his eggs in one basket would just be too risky.
Chong has great confidence in the new restaurant, however, which is located in a busy shopping center with no nearby Chinese restaurants. He also points to the good service he will emphasize, making customers feel at home.
But the economy has weighed heavily on every aspect of the restaurant, from its opening to its menu. In deference to the state of consumers’ pocketbooks, Chong’s Chinese Cuisine will keep prices low, with lunch specials set at $5.99.
While Chong is quick to acknowledge that opening a restaurant right now is a risk, he thinks it’s a calculated one; a risk that has a good chance of paying off.
“Life is risky, right?” Chong said.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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