Hawaii Strong: Kaimuki restaurant uses pandemic to pay it forward

Hawaii Strong: Kaimuki restaurant uses pandemic to pay it forward

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Right along Kaimuki’s main drag, Kim Chee 2 has been an anchor of Honolulu’s local restaurant community for the last 43 years.

Jimmy Chun practically grew up in the industry.

“I would say by the time I was 12 years old, I was in the kitchen cooking or washing dishes or doing something because we just couldn’t pay another employee you know,” Chun said. “So I just did what any family restaurant kid does, you just do what you’re supposed to do.”

A true family restaurant.

Chun, who runs the business with his five children, took over after his father died, but the pandemic nearly shut down operations completely.

[This story is part of HNN’s “Hawaii Strong” series, profiling businesses in the islands adapting to the pandemic and its economic fallout. To suggest a profile, send an email to hawaiistrong@hawaiinewsnow.com.]

“It was coming close to the kind of time where we were really worried when COVID first shut us down,” Chun said. “We were like, oh man, the rent is $14,000 what am I gonna do? We only selling $500 a day you know what I mean? I didn’t know what to do.”

To pay that rent, Chun explored several avenues, including a reduction of staffing hours and applications for the federal Paycheck Protection Program and other small business relief.

Through it all, loyal customers kept the door open.

“Jimmy’s father was my client,” said longtime customer Wayne Luke. “His accountant was next door to me at my Ala Moana building and ever since they opened, we’ve been coming in here.”

To give back to the community, Chun started his own relief program — a free meal every day to a different struggling family.

All they have to do is ask.

“I might ask you like just a couple questions, like 'Eh what happened? You lost your job?,” Chun said. “We really not doing anything special, but it’s almost like, if you at home cooking dinner and one of your friends come over, ‘Eh brah!’ you make a plate for that friend too. You not doing nothing special. you doing how local people do.”

The community response has been unbelievable to the point where Chun’s other customers offered donations to feed more families.

“Every day not a day goes by I don’t get stuff, cash in my hand and say feed more hungry people,” Chun said. “I’m pretty much an emotional guy and it’s hard to hold your tears back.”

Due to overwhelming support, Chun has increased the number of donated meals.

Kim Chee 2 is by no means past its pandemic struggles but their message to their customers is clear: We are all in this together.

“All we trying to do is help,” Chun said. “Help the community that helps and loves us. My customers are not customers, they are family man, I tell you.”

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