U&U Graphics, a neighborhood business since 1994, receives a $2,000 grant as part of the Small Business Relief Fund. (Photo courtesy of Little Tokyo Community Council)

The Little Tokyo Community Council (LTCC) has awarded a total of $100,000 in grant funding to 50 small businesses in Little Tokyo that have faced significant revenue losses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the first round of distributions in November 2020, $2,000 grants were given to 25 of the community’s small businesses, a majority of them being legacy small businesses that have been open for more than 20 years, and the second round will help support 25 more treasured businesses that contribute to the cultural identity of the neighborhood.

The grants have been made possible by donations from the Little Tokyo Small Business Relief Fund, a program created as a partnership between LTCC and the Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC) to provide financial support for local businesses during the pandemic.

“We are so grateful to all of the donors that made this second round of grant distributions possible,” said Kristin Fukushima, LTCC managing director. “The individual grants signify our commitment to support our cherished businesses now and in better times ahead. Little Tokyo is resilient, and we want to make sure our community knows that we’re all in this together.”

Recipients of the second round of grants include 15 legacy small businesses averaging more than 42 years of operation in Little Tokyo, including Akimoto Chiropractic Office, Far Bar, Kurata Eyecare Center, Las Galas, Los Angeles EyeCare Optometry Group, Nobuyuki Watanabe Jewelry, Sanwa Enterprises/Olympic Shop, Sushi & Teri, The Hob Nob Shop, Tokyo Bridal & Tuxedo, Torigoya, U&U Graphics, Utsuwa-No-Yakata, Uyehara Travel and Video Paradise.

Ten additional neighborhood businesses were also chosen to receive the second round of funding: ACE One Stop Mail Plus, California Floral Company, E-Z Shiatsu LA, Ginza, Little Tokyo Pharmacy, Muttropolitan LA, PANAWEST, Popkiller, Sharp Tea and Wonder Nails.

A recipient of the micro-grant, Dr. Gregory Kame, O.D., F.A.A.O., of Los Angeles EyeCare Optometry Group, in operation in Little Tokyo since 1921, is already thinking about how he can pass it forward and about his role in supporting fellow small businesses and the neighborhood.

“I plan to donate the micro-grant funds to some of the struggling Little Tokyo businesses that could use the help but probably didn’t apply for the grant, thinking they would be taking away money from those that desperately need it,” said Dr. Kame. “So I want to give all the money to those businesses that I think deserve it.

“My business was shut down for a few months last year. We are slowly recovering and at least heading in the right direction. We are celebrating our 100th anniversary this year. There have been many ups and downs throughout our history, but we have managed to weather all the storms. I’m confident we will be able to survive this storm.”

LTCC has a fundraising goal of $500,000 to be able to provide $2,000 grants for as many of the eligible local businesses that successfully apply and qualify for the program. Eligibility is determined through the application process available at littletokyola.org/gofundme. Another round of grants will be awarded when the fund reaches $150,000.

In addition to the Little Tokyo Small Business Relief Fund, the LTCC’s Community Feeding Community (CFC) program has wrapped up after 23 weeks. The program supported 84 local businesses by raising more than $195,000 and purchasing and distributing more than 10,000 meals to those in need within the Little Tokyo community.

LTCC continues to accept donations and applications for the Small Business Relief Fund. LTSC Small Business Assistance Program staff is available to help fill out applications. For English-language support, contact Megan Teramoto at mteramoto@ltsc.org and for Japanese language support, contact Mariko Lochridge at mlochridge@ltsc.org. Korean, Chinese, and Spanish interpretation are available upon request and can be made in-language to Mariko Lochridge at mlochridge@ltsc.org.

For more information about and to donate to the Little Tokyo Small Business Relief Fund, visit littletokyola.org/gofundme.

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