MOORESVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — A fundraiser for an Asian American restaurant owner grappling with racist sentiment, COVID-19 restrictions and tornado damage exceeded its initial goal by more than $10,000.
Bing Qiu, whose parents opened Hong Kong Restaurant on South Indiana Street in 1994, said she was the victim of a racially-motivated tirade while grocery shopping in Mooresville.
A customer checking out ahead of her became indignant when she saw Qiu place her groceries on the conveyor belt, apparently upset she had moved a few inches closer to her, she said.
“‘You Asian b—, what the heck are you doing?'” Qiu recalled her saying. “[Her words were] more vulgar but [essentially], ‘What are you doing? Just because I don’t have a mask doesn’t mean I want to get corona from you.'”
Qiu apologized in an attempt to deescalate the situation but the woman continued berating her as other customers and store associates watched, she told News 8.
“She was like, ‘You people are disrespecting us Americans… I want to beat you up,'” Qiu said.
Jaden White, a lifelong Hong Kong Restaurant customer, launched a fundraising campaign for Qiu’s business after learning about the incident.
He felt “almost nauseated” by the verbal attack on Qiu, who treated her patrons “like family,” White said.
“Somebody needed to do something. The fact that nobody would stand up for her at the grocery store just made me so angry,” he told News 8.
White initially hoped to raise $2,000 and listed a goal of $5,000 on GoFundMe. Within three days, 240 people had contributed more than $15,000 to help the restaurant reopen.
A tornado in early April caused thousands of dollars in damage to Hong Kong Restaurant, which closed in late March due to COVID-19 concerns.
Qiu offered carryout service for a week when the governor first imposed dine-in restrictions. She decided to halt all operations when business fell 70% and her 70-year-old father expressed concerns about his own health.
“It just doesn’t feel right that Hong Kong Restaurant is closed,” said White. “The food is certainly one of the reasons that people come here. But there’s also so much fellowship and community involved in eating here.”
He joked about how he and his three siblings were “practically born at the restaurant” because they started dining there as infants.
White’s parents had gone on dates at Hong Kong Restaurant when they were in high school; Qiu smiled at the memory.
She remembered hosting wedding receptions, baby showers, open house events and countless first dates that flourished into romance.
Qiu rattled off her regular customers’ orders and recalled their major life events. She missed laughing, crying, celebrating and eating with them, she said.
On Tuesday, as Qiu spoke with News 8, several people stopped by to tell her they missed her food and company. One woman asked if she would reopen soon and offered to drop off masks.
“There are so many good people in this town,” Qiu said. “You can’t let the bad outshine the good.”
She plans to reopen without any assistance from the GoFundMe account. She hopes to use the money to create a program that feeds community members in need, she said.
Qiu already has a name for the charity: “The Jaden Foundation.”