Little Tokyo Community Council Begins Fundraising for Small Business Relief Fund

Carol Tanita and Rigoberto Martinez of Rafu Bussan Inc. stand in front of a newly installed acrylic barrier. The Little Tokyo store moved to its current location on the Honda Plaza in March 2016. Rafu Bussan has been selling Japanese art and gifts since 1958. They are open with limited hours and access, and schedule all appointments. hours. (Photos by TOYO MIYATAKE STUDIO)

The Little Tokyo Community Council (LTCC) announced the organization of the Little Tokyo Small Business Relief Fund as a GoFundMe crowdfunding effort in partnership with Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC) to provide financial support to local businesses during the crisis current COVID-19.

The Little Tokyo Small Business Relief Fund will accept donations using GoFundMe with LTCC as a non-profit administrator. The goal is to provide a lump sum of $ 2,000 to the greatest number of eligible local businesses that successfully apply and qualify. LTCC has set a fundraising goal of $ 500,000, but hopes to begin distribution once the fund hits the $ 50,000 mark.

Previously, in response to the pandemic that forced restricted access to essential businesses like restaurants, LTCC developed the Community Feeding Community (CFC) program. Donations were collected to purchase meals at restaurants in Little Tokyo that were distributed free of charge to hotel workers and others whose jobs were directly affected by the crisis.

Raising public awareness of PCP through traditional and social media propelled the fundraiser to over $ 100,000, enabling the program to support 75 businesses and distribute over 6,000 meals in three months.

With the CFC having concluded its initial program this month, LTCC has begun discussing possible options with staff at LTSC’s Small Business Assistance Program to continue supporting small businesses in Little Tokyo. LTCC in particular wanted to focus on businesses that were recently allowed to reopen, such as retail stores, hair and nail salons, and bars, as well as traditional businesses. It is estimated that there are 400 businesses in the Little Tokyo district, almost all of which are facing severe impacts from the pandemic.

“As chairman of the board of the Little Tokyo Community Council, I have been extremely pleased with the success of the Community Feeding Community program in helping our local restaurants,” said Doug Aihara. “But I know there are many other types of small establishments besides restaurants and that they are also in need. We hope that the Little Tokyo Small Business Relief Fund can give them a little help during this difficult situation. “

“Over the past three months, businesses in Little Tokyo have reported sales losses ranging from 60 to 100 percent,” said Mariko Lochridge, LTSC’s small business advisor. “Summer events and festivals, which businesses rely on for visitors and customers, have largely been canceled or made virtual. Without support, Little Tokyo will lose much of the legacy and other small businesses that make up the fabric of our historic Japantown. “

Kristin Fukushima, Managing Director of LTCC, added, “LTCC and LTSC hope that by establishing the Little Tokyo Small Business Relief Fund and reaching out to local businesses, we can encourage them to persevere in this unprecedented situation. Our community has already gone through difficult times coming together. We believe that by educating everyone about this fund and its purpose, we are creating an opportunity for people to express their support for Little Tokyo and its businesses. “

Eligibility will be determined during the application process, and application and eligibility information will be available on the web page, LTSC Small Business Assistance Program staff will be available to help you complete applications.

For assistance in English, contact Megan Teramoto at [email protected] and for assistance in Japanese, contact Mariko Lochridge at [email protected] Interpretation in Korean, Chinese and Spanish is available; requests can be made in the language at Lochridge.

For those interested in donating to the Little Tokyo Small Business Relief Fund, visit For general inquiries, contact Kristin Fukushima at [email protected] (English) or Kisa Ito at [email protected]

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