HONOLULU (KHON2) — The restaurant industry in Hawaii has been hit hard by COVID-19. Despite struggling to pay the bills, a long-time local restaurant in Kaimuki has been finding a way to give back to those in need.
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Jimmy Chun is the owner of Kim Chee II. His grandmother and father opened the restaurant in 1977 after immigrating to Hawaii.
“So my dad always groomed me,” Chun said. “He said, ‘you will take over one day, so you got to do this, to do that.'”
Over the years, Kim Chee II became a popular Korean restaurant with a local twist.
“My grandma would just make any kind of stuff like her famous thing was kimchi soup with spam in it, and I loved it,” Chun said about his grandmother’s cooking. “Our restaurant invented meat jun. There is no meat jun in Korea.”
Running a restaurant for 43 years has not been easy, especially in the islands.
“Meat is at least $1 more per pound than the mainland, you know, just to operate in a way, even your lease is more expensive,” Chun said.
When COVID-19 hit, Kim Chee II saw its scariest days.
“I was doing 20% business, and I was just beating myself to the ground. I couldn’t sleep. I was just worried all the time you know?” Chun said.
Thanks to his loyal customers the restaurant is getting by, but the expenses are still high.
“Even if a customer orders a take-out and sits down, after they leave I gotta sanitize that whole section, you know it’s it’s not only the materials, it’s the man costs. I had to hire another person just to kind of, go around and disinfecting as people go, you know,” Chun said.
Chun wanted to give back to those who need it most despite the added costs of the pandemic. He is giving away free meals, no questions asked.
“Just give me a call, between two and three, you know, tell me how much people you get in your family and I’ll help you see them, I really will,” Chun said.
Chun says he fed more than 800 people in November alone.
He says if this pandemic has taught him anything, It is that we all need to treat each other like ohana.
“If everybody did just a little bit, the world would be so beautiful instead of so hateful,” Chun said. “Just we all just got to do a little bit and just our part to do a little bit in the community so they might just have a better day just, you know, some people don’t know what you’re going to eat the next meal, you know.”
To order up some delicious Korean food from Kim Chee II, call 808-737-7733.
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