Famed Chinatown store Pearl River Mart, which was founded in 1971, has partnered with grassroots organization Welcome to Chinatown to launch “The Chinatown Collection,” which drops on August 14. The collection of items such as t-shirts, mugs, and tote bags are available online and in Pearl River’s stores in TriBeCa, Chelsea Market, and at the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA). Pearl River’s president, Joanne Kwong says, “To me, Chinatown is one of the neighborhoods in the city that symbolizes New York in a nutshell. The hustle and bustle, the great food, the immigrant legacy, the multi-generational families and organizations, the tourists, all of it. So many neighborhoods have become overtaken by corporate brands and restaurant chains that it’s hard to find authentic New York. Chinatown is authentic New York.”
The neighborhood was one of the earliest and hardest hit parts of the city. The neighborhood took a downturn beginning in January, due to xenophobia and racism stemming from the spread of COVID-19. And now, along with restaurants and small businesses everywhere, the neighborhood is struggling to reopen as New York emerges from lockdown. It is estimated that one-third of all small businesses in NYC will close permanently as a result of COVID-19.
Shop for a great cause
During the last five months, in spite of the hardship they have faced, the Chinatown community has also been an inspiring source of strength and resilience. Neighbors have come together to feed the community’s elders and most vulnerable, to patrol and clean the streets and help mom-and-pop businesses modernize and survive. Pearl River has partnered with the grassroots organization Welcome to Chinatown to design and produce merchandise for businesses at no cost to them. All proceeds will go back into the community, including 10% to the many inspiring charitable initiatives.
The first Chinatown Collection includes t-shirts, mugs, and tote bags celebrating beloved businesses like Jing Fong, Hop Kee, Nom Wah, Kopitiam, Fong On, Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, Congee Village, and Xi’an Famous Foods, as well as non-profit organizations like Museum of Chinese in America, and Think!Chinatown. Other collaborators include comic book artist Jerry Ma; filmmaker Ursula Liang; Designers For Good Measure and Wonton in a Million; and Pearl River Mart. New partners and items will be announced in coming weeks.
A Long Chinatown History
Kwong says, “Since Pearl River has 50 years of experience in designing, producing, and fulfilling merchandise, along with a robust e-commerce operation, we thought we could help provide an additional revenue channel for fellow businesses in the neighborhood. Most of them are restaurants or food purveyors, as opposed to retailers.”
She continues, “I also thought it would be powerful to see all the brands together. We joined forces with Welcome to Chinatown, a grassroots organization that was founded in response to the pandemic. They were designing merchandise for old school mom-and-pop shops but finding that producing and carrying the inventory was cost-prohibitive. We helped to bring those costs down and streamline fulfillment. We hope to add more businesses that our less digitally savvy and would welcome any introductions to businesses who would like the help.”