The front entrance of Peony Seafood Restaurant in Oakland’s Chinatown. Credit: Pete Rosos

The Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce is hosting a “shopping spree” this Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event was organized to celebrate the coming Lunar New Year that begins on Feb. 12 and to draw customers to Chinatown’s retail stores and restaurants, which are struggling due to a dwindling number of visitors during the pandemic. The event will kick off with a traditional lion dance and other outdoor dance performances.

Attendees will be asked to remain six feet apart and wear masks at all times while shopping and enjoying the festivities.

Participating vendors, including Chung Chou City, an herbal goods store, and Peony Seafood Restaurant, will be selling items typically bought and consumed during Lunar New Year, such red envelopes and rice cakes.

“While we celebrate our Lunar New Year tradition, we would like to have everyone patronize the small businesses in Chinatown,” said Carl Chan, OCCC president, in a press release. “Buying the Lunar New Year decals, fresh produce or even just ordering the food from our restaurants, you can support our Chinatown merchants and share the festive spirit to celebrate the year of the Ox.”

Customers who purchase more than $20 in goods from participating vendors can bring their receipts to a booth that OCCC will have set up in front of Pacific Renaissance Plaza at 388 Ninth Street and receive a complimentary gift.

The chamber will also be selling Lunar New Year gift sets, which include a zip-up hoodie designed Oaklandish, a Year of the Ox t-shirt, lucky red envelopes, and a tote bag, among other items. The t-shirts can also be purchased online.

The chamber is partnering with Oakland Asian Cultural Center, which will host a series of virtual programs highlighting Lunar New Year celebrations from various Asian countries. The cultural center will also host a weeklong Virtual Community Night Market starting February 12.

Since March, OCCC has sought to support the merchants it represents by creating a small business fund for business owners in the neighborhood who experienced property damage during the summer protests. The organization also hosted a series of outdoor dining events through the Flex Streets Initiative, which aimed to safely bring customers back to Chinatown.

Chinatown received a different kind of attention recently, due to a series of robberies in the neighborhood. But Chan, the OCCC president, told The Oaklandside he wants to refocus attention on generating business during the holiday season for Chinatown’s merchants, who continue to struggle during the pandemic.

“Sometimes the crime issue overlooks some of these things,” said Chan. “We are hoping by welcoming the new spirit of this Lunar New Year celebration, we can turn things around for these Chinatown businesses, not only for survival, but to bring in hope.”

Ricky Rodas is a member of the 2020 graduating class of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Before joining The Oaklandside, he spent two years reporting on immigrant communities in the Bay Area as a reporter for the local news sites Oakland North, Mission Local, and Richmond Confidential. Rodas, who is Salvadoran American and bilingual, is on The Oaklandside team through a partnership with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities.