More than just a restaurant: During quarantine, King’s Garden had to put the “family” in family business

Nicole+Liu+stands+in+front+of+King%27s+Garden.+The+door+of+the+takeout+restaurant+has+been+altered+to+adhere+to+COVID+precautions.

Photo by Photo by J. Jeong

Nicole Liu stands in front of King’s Garden. The door of the takeout restaurant has been altered to adhere to COVID precautions.

Jane Jeong and Ravneet Kaur

It’s March 13th. School just shut down and all anyone wants to talk about is the mysterious, new pandemic. Nobody seems to be going out anymore. You don’t know what will happen or how it will happen. All you know is that things are changing fast and you need to adapt quickly. Businesses know they have to adapt even faster.

It’s no secret that local businesses and restaurants were struck especially hard during quarantine. At the time, it was impossible to imagine dining in at a restaurant.

Sophomore Nicole Liu and her mom, Jenny Liu, along with her dad, Hui Liu, know firsthand how uncertainty affected local restaurants and what changes needed to be made. The family owns a Chinese carry-out restaurant called King’s Garden. As a result of the government-mandated lockdown, King’s Garden had to determine whether or not they should shut their doors.

“My mom was the first person that wanted to shut the restaurant down. All of the Chinese restaurants in the central Indiana area have a group chat where they talk to each other about stuff relating to their restaurants. I remember that when COVID started to become a big issue, there was just massive chaos,” Nicole said. “A lot of people, including my mom, wanted to shut down because they were concerned about health and safety. There was some tension in our family because we didn’t know what to do or if we should shut down. There was a lot of debate on what should happen.”

 As a result of the pandemic, the family had to make the tough decision to shut down the restaurant, which caused a lot of mixed emotions. 

“It was really difficult and painful to have to close down the restaurant. It was not only difficult because it was our only source of income, but it was difficult to see something that my family worked so hard to build up be closed down,” Jenny said. “Before, the restaurant was open everyday except for Thanksgiving. It felt so strange to have a month of not being there at the restaurant.”

Around mid-May, the Indiana Health Department determined that it was safe to eat at restaurants. According to North Hospital recovery nurse Tiffany Simpson, customers should take their own precautions, like proper hand hygiene before eating, wearing masks, and social distancing, but restaurants can change their layout to create a safer environment.

“People should be allowed to eat at restaurants as long as they practice social distancing and the restaurant is well ventilated. Tables and chairs should be 6 feet apart. People should also explore the idea of outdoor eating,” Simpson said.

Since the Liu family restaurant serves carry-out, the problem they had to overcome was how they would deliver food to customers. They experimented with many different ways of getting the orders out.

“What we’ve done is installed a door which has a little window on it that can slide up and down,” Nicole said. “Usually, people wait outside and when it’s their turn to get the food, we just slide it up and give it to them. It’s a really easy process.”

Reopening the restaurant didn’t happen without some struggles. The family wondered if business would ever get back to how it used to be.

“There’s also other Chinese restaurants which haven’t been doing so well,” Nicole said. “For example, my mom has a friend that owns a buffet and business is not as well as it used to be. Now that there’s so many regulations, people don’t want to go into a buffet and get food. It’s put a big strain on the family and their finances.

Additionally, another struggle that King’s Garden experienced was some racially-charged language when it first opened.

“When [a customer] got home, I guess he found that my mom forgot to put in some of the sauces. So, he called me and started screaming at me and called me a [Chinese slur] and I didn’t know how to respond,” Nicole said. “I’m just a girl that answers the phones. That situation was one of the firsts where I had to deal with a customer like that. I found it super weird because he was acting so nice and talking about how he missed our restaurant earlier.”

Hui says although there can be hurtful incidents, he is more thankful to the community for their consistent support.

“These comments definitely hurt, and I think they can make anyone feel upset…I remember in the early days of the restaurant, there were some teenagers that were screaming racist comments at us and made a huge mess by throwing rice everywhere. Back then, my English wasn’t very good and I didn’t know how to respond to the situation,” Hiu said. “But, I remember that a kind man stood up for us and helped us get the teenagers to leave. He even offered to pay for the rice that the teenagers threw. There are always going to be ignorant people, but I know that we can always find support and love in our community.”

Even though it may be hard to support local businesses during this pandemic, it is important to find safe alternatives so that the families and people who own the businesses are protected and supported. According to Simpson, customers can support local restaurants without direct contact by ordering online, going through carry out, or picking up orders at curbside.

Despite the struggles and uncertainty, there’s been a lot of support for King’s Garden.

“We were one of the first Chinese restaurants in the area to open up,” Nicole said. “The amount of support we were receiving from our community was a little overwhelming and we didn’t realize how strong our community is, but we are really grateful for everyone that came to our restaurant and supported our business.”

While the Liu family is immensely thankful for the support they receive in the community, Jenny says that she is also grateful for the work that her family, and especially her children, put into the restaurant.

“My husband and I are really grateful for our two kids that stepped in to provide that help. Though they have always worked in the restaurant before, there were now a lot more work that needed to get done due to the short staff,” Jenny said. “My daughter helped in the back with orders and answering phones, while my son worked in the front as a cashier. We are beyond thankful that they were there to help us with the workload.”


How have other businesses in Noblesville dealt with COVID-19?

Kiln Creations

Thanks to the CARES Act, many local businesses in Indiana got help through grants and funding to stay afloat financially when everything was being shut down. Kiln Creations, a pottery-making business, for example, received funding from Indiana Restart.

“If you made 50 percent to 80 percent less than what you had made in January and February, you got a supplemental grant that helped you keep your doors open,” Blazucki said. “And it was an application that anyone could fill out. So we just had to submit basic financials, showing exactly what we made for the month that we requested financing.”

When Kiln Creations got shut down in March, they still provided curbside pickups and delivery. Since reopening, customers are allowed in at about half-capacity and must wear masks if they are above four-years-old. Kiln Creations also makes sure to disinfect all pieces of communal equipment to ensure a safe environment. According to Kiln Creations owner Louise Blazucki, customers have been very supportive even with all of the new requirements.

“We actually have had a really great run, everyone seems to understand because we’re a family environment, the requirements on mask-wearing. So we really appreciate our customers kind of just being happy to do it,” Blazucki said.

Along with implementing new precautions, Kiln Creations also began providing virtual classes when they were first shut down. According to Blazucki, they have become very popular.

 “I think that we will continue offering virtual classes forever, because I think that being able to take classes at your own time is pretty appealing to most people and the flexibility of doing whatever you want at your own pace is nice,” Blazucki said. “So then that way, the slower people can kind of take their time and really be dedicated to that project on their own time.”

Rosie’s Place

Rosie’s Place has largely followed similar sanitary protocols as other restaurants. 

“We have had to change how we clean our tables and menus between guests, we now wear face masks at all times and roll silverware instead of setting it out on the table. We have taken all the mandatory precautions laid out by the state and CDC,” owner Debbi Bourgerie said.

Despite the many new challenges and regulations that businesses must follow, according to Bourgerie, local businesses can stay true to their missions of serving the community.

 “Even with putting new regulations in place, Rosie’s [hasn’t] changed all that much. The core of who we are and what we do remains the same – serving delicious food to the beloved Noblesville community. We still feel the same comradery we did pre-COVID, our regulars still visit, and we welcome new faces in daily,” Bourgerie said. 

Rosie’s will celebrate their tenth anniversary on October first, and although 2020 has been a year full of uncertainty for all local businesses, Bourgerie says that Rosie’s Place was able to reopen and stay reopened thanks to their customers and community.

 “There was a point we didn’t think we’d make it to this milestone. Luckily the community rallied behind us, and we reopened our doors and are now more devoted to serving our communities than ever,” Bourgerie said.

Noblesville Antiques on the Square

Like many other local businesses, Antiques on the Square had to close down for about four months until they reopened August 1st. Since reopening, they haven’t had to worry too much about enforcing completely new precautions like restaurants have had to.

“For me, the masks and the hand sanitizer and the hand washing are the big things. I know food service is probably different, but in this industry, I mean I typically have an older crowd that comes in anyways. So they’re pretty precautious on their own,” owner Jill Janusiewicz said.

According to Januseiwicz, the only completely new precaution being enforced is the requirement of masks, which Antiques provides in the case that a customer forgets to wear one.

“If people don’t have them, we sell them at the front for a dollar. I mean, there are times where if there’s maybe one or two people and someone’s forgotten their mask, or they ask if they have to wear it,” Januseiwicz said. “I mean we’re a 10,000 square foot building so if there’s enough room and we’re slow enough, I might be a little bit lenient on it, but for the most part, everyone wears a mask.”

  Januseiwicz says she believes that the masks are working, and is hopeful that COVID won’t last forever.

 “I think it makes people feel more comfortable even if it’s not really doing anything. I think people feel they’re protected somehow. So I don’t think it’s an all-out bad thing that’s going on,” Januseiwicz said. “I think eventually they’re going to have a vaccine, or enough people are going to get it that it’s just going to kind of dwindle off, kind of like the swine flu did a long time ago. I think overall that we’re doing the best we can, for sure.”