Former 'Henry's Gallery Café' Owner Humbled By Community Support

Former 'Henry's Gallery Café' Owner Humbled By Community Support
Jung Sook Park and Yong Soo Jung, Amy Newman, Brent Noorda and translator Jae Kim. | Photos: Lisa Pollack/Hoodline
By Lisa Pollack - Published on August 17, 2017.

Since April, Yong Soo Jung has been caught in a series of unfortunate events.

First, the renewal on his immigration visa—which relied upon his status as a business owner—overlapped with notice that his livelihood was in jeopardy. In the spring, he learned that the five-year lease he held at Henry's Gallery Café on 17th & Franklin would not be up for renewal.

Instead, Beauty's Bagel Shop, which has a location in Uptown, signed a lease in May to open its second location in the corner spot.

Jung and his wife, Jung Sook Park, ran the popular café that served sandwiches, wraps and salads since they emigrated to from South Korea in 2007. Feeling blindsided, they sought out legal counsel before resigning to the imposed July 31 closing date.  

Since closing on July 31, the space at 17th & Franklin is undergoing renovations to prepare for the new tenant.

Making matters worse, thieves burgled their home on June 5, stealing more than $40,000 of cash and belongings. Thieves entered the building through a broken gate, then looted their unit in broad daylight. Police provided a limited investigation, but ultimately, they were at a loss.

Shortly thereafter, Jung shared news of the robbery and news of the impending closure with customers Amy Newman and Brent Noorda.

Residents of the same block, Newman said she and Noorda, her husband, often often stopped in for breakfast while walking their dogs.

"They remembered our order, they knew we were in school, and we'd met their son," she said. "It was a bit of a community meeting place where we'd often see the same people." When she heard about the family's struggles, she was inspired to help. 

On July 4, Newman and Noorda established a fundraising page to provide assistance on GoFundMe.com. Knowing that the robbery had left Jung and Park without the means to cover his son's final year at university, the initial goal was to raise one quarter's tuition: $15,000.

The campaign was publicized via social media and word of mouth, as well as a poster that hung in the cafe's front window during its final weeks. 

"I'm just amazed with the GoFundMe," Noorda said. They have received 328 donations to date, surpassing the original goal of $15,000.  Recently, the campaign received $2,024 from an unknown donor, bringing the fundraising total to $20,785.

Included in the appeal at GoFundMe.com is an update from Newman soliciting leads on a new space for Jung to set up his business.

So far, most opportunities surfaced have presented only short-term solutions: "They're looking for something long-term. People have been in contact, but there are criteria, and it's so expensive." To mitigate the set-up costs, another former customer has anonymously stepped up with backing. 

Other loyal customers have found other means for expressing their support.

Via a translator, Jung recalled the consistently generous tips they received once their fate was known. One woman, after hearing of the trials and tribulations the business had weathered, convinced roughly 200 fellow AC Transit employees to visit Henry's for lunch. 

Noorda likened Jung's struggles to the story of George Bailey, the hero of the 1945 film, It's a Wonderful Life.

In the movie, Bailey suffers a series of misfortunes, but in the end, his friends and neighbors come to his aid. Similarly, Jung said he's humbled by the support he has received and remains committed to the goal of re-establishing his business within the community.