CHAMBLEE, Ga. — Chinatown, in Atlanta, is the name of a shopping mall in Chamblee. Its restaurants bring in rave reviews. For now, it’s still open, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, but those who enter wear masks and order to-go.
And one of Chinatown's most iconic jewels - Maomi Bookstore - is temporarily closed.
"We're the only Chinese bookstore in the Southeast region," explained Yvonne Hou. "It this one’s gone, there is no other one.”
Hou runs Maomi Bookstore. A peer through its windows gives a glimpse of the vibrant vehicle of culture that’s stood in Chinatown for more than a decade. The store sells books, stationery, coffee and tea. It runs classes in Chinese culture and calligraphy.
"I feel happy to share the culture I know to everybody,” Hou said.
On Buford Highway and its surrounding streets, the COVID-19 outbreak has left parking lots empty and small businesses struggling. At risk, in stores like Maomi, are entire swaths of representation.
“I don’t want to close down the bookstore, because I think it offers important cultural value," Hou told 11Alive's Matt Pearl.
She’s not alone. Hou began a fundraiser on GoFundMe to help with rent and utilities. In two weeks, more than 50 customers pooled together more than $6,000.
It's still too early to say whether it will be enough to save a jewel. For now, it gives hope that the only Chinese bookstore from Washington, D.C. to Miami will once again become that vibrant vehicle in an iconic hub.
“We don’t know if this will be our full recovery," Hou admitted. "We can only pray this will be over soon.”