Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Takeout owner deals with physical, cultural barriers

IN THE West Oak Lane neighborhood that surrounds the Bo Shing Chinese takeout, Qinhui Chen stands behind a double-glass window that separates her from her customers.

IN THE West Oak Lane neighborhood that surrounds the Bo Shing Chinese takeout, Qinhui Chen stands behind a double-glass window that separates her from her customers.

"In this day and age, a lot of stores do that," said Eugene Hailey, 44, who lives near the takeout. "A lot of Puerto Rican stores, a lot of mom-and-pop shops. That's for safety."

The glass partition serves to protect workers from crime, but it also cuts them off from their customers - representing a literal and metaphorical divider between their two worlds.

Chen and her husband, Jicun Wu, emigrated from China and opened their takeout on 66th Avenue near Uber Street a year ago. She has been running it on her own since her husband was struck in the back of the head and in his torso outside the store June 8. Five months later, he is still in the hospital.

Hailey and a 71-year-old female neighbor both said they understand that the glass window serves as a safety barrier for store owners and aren't bothered by it, but others say that they find some Chinese-takeout owners to be rude and offensive.

Standing at 66th Avenue and 20th Street, a man who gave his first name as Terry said: "Some treat you nice and respectful. Others are disrespectful, treat you like a dog.

"They make money mostly off African-Americans who go in that store," he said of Bo Shing.

He contended that Chen curses at kids. "She cuss them out in Chinese," he said. "You know when someone is cussing you out."

Chen, when told this recently, replied in Mandarin: "They say I get mad at them? If they don't have enough money, they get mad at me with not-nice-sounding words."

On one recent night, a couple of customers accused Chen of giving them the wrong change. Others were pleasant and friendly.

"She's nice," Rayonah Walker, 19, said of Chen as she picked up her dinner. "I don't know what their problem is," she said of one boy who wrongly accused Chen of shorting him on change.

Some customers laughed when Chen, 34, who speaks little English, didn't understand them.

As one boy entered the green-tiled lobby, he slammed his hand against the glass partition separating the lobby from the kitchen to get Chen's attention. He asked for something, not speaking clearly. Chen brought him Twizzlers.

"No Twizzler," the boy replied, as his friend, a red-shirted youth in low-hanging blue jeans, laughed.

Then two other youths entered, and one boy, dressed in a hoodie, asked Chen to give him Fruit Roll-Ups for five cents less than the quarter price. Chen shook her head "no."

"I'm always in this store," the boy groused before buying two smaller candies for 20 cents.

Most of the customers who came into the takeout bought candy, chips or "blunt" cigars, with the occasional order for shrimp with broccoli, chicken wings, pizza rolls or spare ribs.

When darkness falls, the mood gets a bit rowdier and the potential for violence rises.

"Some people come in and just yell, 'Yo!' " Chen said. "The person hasn't come in, but the voice has."

Other times, she said, "they scold us. They yell really loud. They hit the door. They spit."

Chen added that since the attack, "sometimes I really think of going to China, but then I think in China, there is not much work."

About 10:30 p.m., three young men in hoodies sauntered in. One, in a blue-and-gray hoodie, bought an ice cream, then asked if the Oreos "are fresh."

Chen, not understanding, replied, "No."

The man and his two friends burst into laughter.

Fifteen minutes later, the trio returned. One, in a green hoodie, who didn't previously buy anything, told Chen, "You gave me two English coins," as he held up a silver- and a gold-colored coin.

"No, we don't have that," Chen replied.

That sent this man hooting with laughter, as the third man ordered chicken wings.

Afterward, the three men hung outside the takeout. At one point, the man in the blue-and-gray hoodie banged his arm several times on the window.

"Excuse me?" Chen yelled from behind the glass, her voice carrying through the propped-open front door.

"I'm sorry!" the man yelled back.