Like most restaurant owners, Stan Le, owner of Shirasoni, was flooded with worry for his business as COVID-19 thrust our world into a “new normal.” Restaurants suddenly became a danger zone and with strict guidelines issued for a shelter-in-place order, Stan initially closed his doors wanting to protect the health of his customers and employees. After his initial reaction to close, his employees came to him with a plan to reopen for take-out orders. They decided to create a rotating schedule so that each employee had the opportunity to continue working. At that time, it was mid-March and it was still very much unknown what sort of financial assistance, if any, would be offered to people unemployed as a result of COVID-19. It was no surprise to me to hear that Stan’s biggest concern was the financial impact on his employees. Knowing that many of them live paycheck to paycheck, he was worried about their reduced income. All employees would now share less hours, so he raised their wages. That is only the first glimpse into Stan’s kind heart.
As Stan was quickly learning to navigate the new parameters and health requirements as a take-out order restaurant during an unprecedented time, and caring for the well-being of his employees, he simultaneously began to serve the community-at-large in an immense way. Stan reached out to Brentwood Strong, a grassroots community effort of people helping people, and they assisted him in distributing thousands of meals during the COVID-19 crisis. For nine weeks, Shirasoni provided 100 meals every Tuesday. The hibachi meals were picked up by Brentwood Strong volunteers and delivered to our most vulnerable community members: our seniors, immunocompromised, and underserved families.
HE DIDN’T STOP THERE
Stan provided hundreds of meals to Ricka Davis-Sheard and Vincent Vidriales, founders of the non-profit S.H.A.R.E. Community, where they distributed these meals every Saturday to our unhoused community. The S.H.A.R.E. Community has been sharing meals on Saturdays with the unhoused community for years. Ricka let me know that these meals were amazing, she said they were hot and delicious and expressed gratitude to Stan for his generosity.
I asked Stan what drives his deep desire to serve the community. He said that he grew up watching his immigrant parents work 16-hour days on the farm, yet always made it a priority to give back to the family and those around. He said, “I learned to do what it takes to make sure the people around you are taken care of.” He certainly does make it a priority to take care of those around him. In addition to all of the community deliveries, he has provided countless meals to essential workers. Local healthcare heroes need only to call in their order, let it be known that they are an essential healthcare provider, and Stan would take care of the rest.
“On another Tuesday, when our volunteer Heather Taylor mentioned that she would need to get distilled water for the seniors she was helping since they needed some for their BiPAP machine, he offered to run and pick up distilled water from his other store and quickly returned to save the day.”
Stan expressed that he was able to give back and support the community because the community has been supporting him since he opened the restaurant. The fact that Shirasoni continued to be supported with take-out orders throughout the COVID-19 crisis made it possible for Stan to continue donating meals. Stan said, “Whatever we can give to the community, we will.”
Stan credits all success to his employees and said he could not have provided this outreach without their continued efforts. Taking care of his employees is a priority. Stan’s goal is that customers have the best possible experience in his restaurant, and he has found that well-cared-for employees offer the best customer service.
Seana Fippin of Brentwood Strong checked in with us to offer even more detail to the kind and generous actions of Stan Le: “While the expense, time, and heart that he demonstrated was phenomenal in itself, what was even more special was how he went above and beyond in other ways. We would bring additional food and supplies to Shirasoni every week for our volunteers to take along with their meals, and when he heard we were short on toilet paper supply, he promptly returned with a case. On another Tuesday, when our volunteer Heather Taylor mentioned that she would need to get distilled water for the seniors she was helping since they needed some for their BiPAP machine, he offered to run and pick up distilled water from his other store and quickly returned to save the day. His generosity and heart are above and beyond and it was a true honor to get to know him better and serve with him.”
Stan’s philosophy is to find the good inside everyone and, regardless of the circumstance, look for what you can do and how you can serve. Clearly, he lives his principles and our community is tremendously grateful.
Shirasoni is scheduled to reopen July 1 implementing all the extra precautions. While the restaurant will be slightly rearranged, incorporating table dividers and distance seating, Stan is looking forward to serving the community inside the restaurant once again.