hen the pandemic hit, so many hospitality small businesses faced the same challenge: Close the business and risk losing it or stay open despite the danger of a never-before-seen health crisis. For immigrant owners, that choice was far more difficult.

Some came here as refugees, some as trailblazers, all aspirants for a happier, healthier life for them and their loved ones. The pandemic changed that overnight.

Hamid Kerim, who worked in international trade, fled from northwest China in 2017 and opted to start a new in the D.C. region with a career as a restaurateur. He bought Dolan Uyghur, whose Cleveland Park location is shown here, in late 2018 from another Uyghur family who had founded it.

Mr. Hamid had gone 18 months without a single day of closing his restaurant’s doors. The pandemic wasn’t going to change that for Hamid Kerim.

“I work hard every day. I have to pay my rent,” said Kerim, owner of Dolan Uyghur in Cleveland Park, through a translator. “My whole life depends on this restaurant — my wife, my kids, very nice people who work in my restaurant who want to continue to work.”

A purveyor of international trade when he was in China, Kerim opted for a way to reach more everyday Washingtonians when he arrived here to help raise awareness of his people’s cause. He bought the D.C. restaurant from fellow Uyghurs by the fall of 2018, and opened its Chantilly cousin this summer.

“In my country, I am a businessman. So, I think, maybe restaurant business will be good for my life and my family,” Kerim said. “Maybe [Dolan Uyghur] will also let Americans know about the culture and food culture of my people, and what is happening to them.”

“During the pandemic, we delivered free food to a hospital and to soldiers, and a lot of people were happy about this. I love this country. I think about how this country give me and my kids free education, a free life,” Kerim said. “Now my dream is to do something for this country, and I teach my kids that too. I hope I can raise them to do something back for this country. This is me and my family’s dream.”

In turn, he sees his restaurant as a way to connect this country back to his roots. After all, nearly 40,000 customers used to eat at Dolan Uyghur in an average pre-pandemic year, nearly all American-born, per Mr. Kerim’s estimates.

Continue Reading the full article: https://www.bizjournals.com/washington/news/2021/09/02/immigrant-business-owners-dc-covid-pandemic.html

By Jin Ni – Contributing Writer

Source: Washington Business Journal