E Noodle, a Hong Kong-style noodle shop located on Jefferson Street on the border of Lower Manhattan’s Chinatown and Lower East Side, is one of four sister restaurants located across Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens owned by Allen Cheng. Mr. Cheng launched this particular outpost in 2013 building on a more than 30-year history in the restaurant business that started with restaurant supply. Now, the business employs six local residents with deep ties to the community and looks for ways to foster economic growth in a neighborhood hard hit by COVID-19’s devastating financial outcomes.
Of Chinese descent but culturally Latinx, Mr. Cheng identifies with both Asian and Latinx cultures and understands the plight of both communities as an immigrant in New York City. Mr. Cheng is one of more than 400,000 Guatemalans who sought a way out of the country’s decades-long civil war by immigrating to North America. He came to New York in the 1980s seeking a better future. Building on an education in Accounting and Business and experience growing snow peas back home, Mr. Cheng started importing snow peas and selling them to local restaurants. With that business growing over time, Mr. Cheng opened E Noodle to bring a different style of noodles to New York.
When COVID-19 hit New York City in late 2019, E Noodle was just one of many Chinatown-based businesses that began to feel the pandemic’s most negative economic effects. Like many Asian business owners across the city, Mr. Cheng had to close up shop due to the steep decline in sales as diners avoided Chinese neighborhoods in a backlash stemming from news of the virus’ origin.
While he shuttered E Noodle’s doors for two years, Mr. Cheng sought ways to keep himself and those around him afloat economically. Again, he turned to his roots in Guatemala, showing another local resident how to roast coffee and offering up E Noodle’s location as a coffee shop.
Now, Mr. Cheng has reopened E Noodle just a few doors down from its original location using capital made available through the NYC Small Business Opportunity Fund — the largest public-private loan fund directed at small businesses in the city’s history. The fund — made possible by a public-private partnership between the NYC Department of Small Business Services, Goldman Sachs, Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, and local community development financial institutions (CDFIs) like Renaissance — fulfills a goal set forth in Mayor Adams’ “Renew, Rebuild, Reinvent: A Blueprint for New York City’s Economic Recovery” plan.
E Noodle is beginning to see a steady improvement in sales, but more importantly, the business is re-establishing its role as a real place of community within the neighborhood. Among its employees are the now-grown children of other immigrant business owners with shops just down the street, and its customers travel from other parts of the city to dine and chat with Mr. Cheng. Renaissance is proud to be able to play a role in supporting businesses like E Noodle and can’t wait to see what is next for Mr. Cheng, who shared that his latest goal is to franchise the business and see it employ many more New Yorkers across the five boroughs.