MOORESVILLE, Ind. — The Mooresville community is rallying behind a restaurant owner who is struggling to recover from damage caused by a tornado in early April.
An EF-1 tornado caused extensive damage to several downtown Mooresville businesses on the night of April 8. After the storm, Hong Kong Restaurant owner, Bing Qiu, initially believed the repairs would be a simple process.
“I thought it was just a roof, they can replace the roof and dry out the carpet and we’re good to go,” Qiu said.
However, Qiu says the tornado exposed some hidden damage to the building caused by termites and water. Upon that discovery, Qiu says the overall repair costs were likely to surpass $40,000.
“All the walls have to be pulled out,” Qiu said. “We’ll have to redo the framing on the exterior wall.”
As of now, Qiu expects insurance to eventually cover the cost of repairs. However, an initial payment to contractors has not gone through, leaving reconstruction at a standstill.
With her restaurant business currently in limbo, Qiu also recently posted on social media about becoming the target of racially disparaging remarks while shopping at an area grocery store.
At that point, Jaden White, manager at nearby Tri-County Sports in downtown Mooresville, decided to take action. White started an online fundraiser to help Qui get repairs on her restaurant started. White said he is a regular patron at Hong Kong Restaurant, and he was inspired to help Qiu and her family.
“They don’t care who you are or what background you come from,” White said. “They’re willing to feed you and treat you like family.”
Within a couple days, the fundraiser’s initial $5,000 goal was surpassed and raised to $10,000. As of Wednesday, donations from the community had surpassed $16,000.
“I initially thought 5,000 was ambitious,” White said. “And now we’re over 16,000 and I’m just very grateful that so many people have stepped up.”
“I’m not a very emotional person, but I was balling my eyes out at home,” Qiu said. “My husband was like ‘What’s wrong?’”
Tri-County Sports, which sells sporting goods equipment and apparel sustained tornado damage as well. White said the business is still operating, and repairs are on schedule. However, the loss of youth sports through the COVID-19 pandemic has hurt his company’s bottom line.
Mooresville Town Council President, Shane Williams, says most reconstruction through downtown Mooresville is on track. However, the downtown area still has several months of recovery ahead.
“Businesses are struggling a little bit to get back on their feet,” Williams said. “A lot of them really want to get open and get their buildings back to normal.”
Williams said he was touched when he learned about the fundraising effort to help Qiu and the Hong Kong Restaurant.
“She’s a wonderful person,” he said. “When you go into her restaurant, she knows you. And she knows about your family.”
Last week, Mooresville announced a $50,000 fund for local businesses affected by COVID-19 to apply for assistance in the form of $5,000 loans. Williams believes most businesses affected by the April tornado have also been impacted by the coronavirus crisis, and would be able to apply.
Qiu says she’s still hoping her insurance will cover the cost of her restaurants repairs. If so, she plans to use the money to start a scholarship for Mooresville High School seniors, inspired by her recent grocery story experience. The goal of the scholarship would be to raise awareness about racial harassment.
“I wanted them to write a letter of the time they stood up to someone or something and I’m going to write them a check for a thousand dollars,” Qiu said.