Asian restaurant is an American success story
Amy Chen is all smiles and conversation.She is in her restaurant, scurrying around the dining room. She greets customers, checks on food and invites curious would-be-guests back for dinner later in the evening. “Everybody keeps telling me how good it is,” said one man who wanders in to Chen’s JH Chen Asian Bistro & Bar, on Cooper Avenue right off of 8th Street, during the afternoon lull. “Thank you,” Chen said. She asks the man if he wants to return later that night for dinner. “Hopefully we’ll see you.” Several weeks after opening at least the fifth Asian restaurant in the Glenwood Springs area, Chen is busy doing what she started as a 20-year-old immigrant years before – talking with guests and running a restaurant. Chen, now 36, came to the United States from China 16 years ago.
“This is my dream,” she said. “I just wanted to go to a different country.”Chen spoke no English and had no family in New York City, where she landed. She thought she’d study English for the first few months, but said, “When I came here, ‘Uh-oh, I have to make money.’ ” She took a three-month English-as-a-second-language course and started working in restaurants. Little by little she learned the language and the restaurant business. She started in the back of the house, then moved to the dining room. “That’s how I know how to open a restaurant,” she said.”When people come here that don’t speak English, it’s hard,” she said. Chen, however, had to learn and practiced with customers and is now nearly fluent. Eventually Chen opened her own restaurant in New York with her sister, brother-in-law, and mother. Business was OK, but competitive.
Ten years after moving to New York, Chen visited a friend in Aspen. “Oh, I like it here,” she thought, and she soon moved to the Roaring Fork Valley. She worked at Little Ollie’s in Aspen for five years, before deciding to open her own place in Glenwood Springs. JH Chen Asian Bistro & Bar is doing well, thanks in no small part to Chen, who bounces around the front of the house, while her sister and brother-in-law man the back of the house. Other similar restaurants aren’t nervous about the arrival of Chen’s restaurant.”It doesn’t affect me,” said Jenny Wang, owner of Taipei Tokyo. Wang said she has loyal customers, and even those who have tried Chen’s restaurant have come back to Taipei Tokyo. Chen seems to be doing well, even though starting a business can be nerve-wracking.
“The first week I’m nervous, very nervous,” she said. Chen does little advertising and fears that it won’t be enough to draw customers. But, customers are stumbling in on their own, and seem to be pleased with what they found.”The customers say, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll be back,’ ” she said.Contact Ryan Graff: 945-8515, ext. email@example.com
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