The state of Texas accounts for 3 percent of all the anti-Asian American discrimination accounts since mid-March, according to the Asian Pacific Policy Planning Council. The council reports verbal attacks are rampant and hate incidents at businesses are prevalent.
Despite the numbers, the Chen family, owners of China Dynasty say they’ve seen some discrimination in their personal lives, but for the most part, they’re thanking their loyal customers who’ve kept them in business not only during this pandemic but for the past 36 years in South Austin.
“What year was that?” Eric Ching, third-generation co-owner of China Dynasty asks, looking through an old family album.
“Mmm back in 1984?” his aunt and second-generation co-owner, Jenny Chen said.
We know in this 2020 pandemic, not much is typical, including the dining room at China Dynasty.
“Seeing these pictures is like some crazy memories, I used to run around here, play hide and seek, there is customers everywhere, we didn’t care, we just did whatever we wanted, my dad would come out and yell at us, come back inside, we’d do it all over again!” Ching says, flipping through the pictures.
It’s a bittersweet moment as this family looks through the memories, Your King Chen, grandpa and first-generation owner, died in early August, but despite his death, his spirit and vision is very much alive. “It's how we started it, the 5 of us, my mom was chef and dad was just a helper,” Jenny Chen remembers looking at photos from the first restaurant location.
The Chen family came to Austin from Taiwan with a dream for a better opportunity. “That was an interesting, hard time because we came here with very, very, very broken English to start a business,” Jenny Chen says.
And it was truly a family business, everyone had a job.
“My father’s idea was everybody could eat together, instead of working at every restaurant, scattered around in Austin,” Jenny Chen says. “So, my dad started a restaurant. His goal was having all the kids, big family, work together, eat together to try to survive back then.”
Small lessons in survival applied to even the smallest task, like continuing to work every aspect of the restaurant to this day. “But, God is looking after us and our business is pretty good I guess,” Jenny Chen says laughing as they continue with the lunch take-out crowd.
Still, in 2020, three generations later, grandson Eric takes orders, mom Judy keeps things running and Aunt Jenny does her part to keep things sanitized.
As they clean up in between customers, they say it’s not lost on them the discrimination many Asian families have faced because of the COVID19 pandemic.
“See people are afraid to come to a Chinese restaurant to eat because the COVID19 starts from China, that fear it’s coming from China, but our whole family eats here almost every meal, what are they afraid of?” Chen says.
Right now, they continue doing their part of help customers feel at ease and running the business as usual. “Most of our customers are repeat, loyal, return customers, that’s how we can survive in the past 36 years,” Chen says. “We still see the customers back from 1984 and their kids grow up, this restaurant is more like a family.”
A family living our Mr. and Mrs. Chen’s dynasty. “They [Austinites] should trust us, we still have our old recipes back from 1984, our family eats here every single meal, and we’re healthy… look at me!” Chen says with a big smile.