It was the fall of 2001. In the time of economic downturn and after September 11th, I was re-evaluating my life and future like many of us New Yorkers were doing. My handbag business at 102 Suffolk Street was struggling. My work-in-progress documentary film project entered a vault. A film degree and a decade of my 'career' as an entrepreneur didn't help me find a normal job. I had to think of the next move.
It was truly depressing to be here in downtown Manhattan, where we watched and smelt smoke coming from the World Trade Center for months after the attack. But I loved the Lower East Side; after 12 years in the neighborhood, this was my home. I was here to stay. I began to think about what I could possibly offer to the neighborhood.
Then one day, I woke up thinking about SOY.
It was about good, healthy and nutritious home cooking meals to make people feel better. Obviously we could use another food service establishment in the neighborhood; Delancey Street is saturated with fast food chains. Tablecloth restaurants began to appear on Clinton Street in the recent years, but healthier, everyday option was still sparse in the Lower East Side.
Goodness of soyfood is finally being discovered in America. Although you're likely to find 'tofu-something' in restaurants nowadays, I knew I have a lot more to introduce to the American table. I grew up in a household with a fresh supply of tofu in the refrigerator at all times. The 'tofu lady' came three times a week with fresh tofu of all kinds on the back of her bicycle. Naturally, we ate a lot of tofu. I already had so many tofu recipes I could make blindfolded. It's a wonderful, versatile food that can be incorporated into any type of cuisine. I decided to open the restaurant of my dream featuring soy and authentic Japanese home cooking. It's a hard business in hard times, but I'm having a blast since our opening in February 2002. It's wonderful to see pleasant surprises on my customers' faces when they taste the food. The walls are decorated with snapshots of happy clients. I know many of them by their first names. People sometimes stop in just to say hello. Many people wave at me when passing in front of the store. I feel SOY is coming close to what I first envisioned. I've been building wonderful new relationships with people around me, and I feel I've been making a little contribution to their well-being through food I prepare.