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The Barstool Fund - Wonju Korean Restaurant

Up next: Wonju Korean Restaurant (Roanoke, VA)

One of Roanoke's hidden gems, Wonju is a family-owned restaurant that is committed to providing customers with delicious and traditional Korean dishes with fresh ingredients sourced from Northern, Virginia.

We recently saw the announcement for the Barstool Fund providing assistance to small businesses affected by the pandemic.

We are writing on behalf of our father (Johnathan Jeong), who owns and runs Wonju Korean Restaurant. Wonju Korean Restaurant is a family-owned, minority-owned business located in Roanoke, VA - with 10+ years in business, it's a longstanding member of the community. At Wonju, we prioritize employing individuals who are challenged with finding employment (elderly, undocumented, etc). We believe that everyone, regardless of identity, has the right to employment and fair pay.  Because we are a small business, our employees are like family; therefore, we have kept all of our employees and continued to pay them throughout COVID-19. My father wanted to make sure that our employees had consistency in their lives during such uncertain times, which is why he sacrificed his personal salary to ensure the continuation of payroll.

Prior to COVID-19, we were able to serve delicious, traditional Korean food to the community members of Roanoke and beyond inside the restaurant. We aimed to serve patrons authentic Korean dishes such as bulgogi, kimchi stew, and bibimbap. Our dishes awakened all five senses - sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. Stews come out piping hot; the aroma of spices floods the dining hall; the sizzle of the stone pots can be heard as patrons mix the bibimbap; patrons lick the sauce off their fingers as they finish eating Korean short ribs.

Due to VA Governor's COVID restrictions, we were unable to welcome customers for the usual dine-in experience; Wonju was only able to offer carry-out and curbside pickup services.Therefore, business has been extremely slow and it has been a challenge acquiring customers even though we have reopened our doors at limited capacity. We have suffered tremendous financial loss due to COVID-19 (75% loss in sales). Due to our location being near universities, we also depend heavily on college students for their business. However, due to universities transitioning to a virtual model we have lost that demographic.

The business is struggling to stay afloat as the bills pile up. We have been proactively applying for different small business grants; however, we have been denied due to unavailability of funds. We are doing our best to continue to keep our employees on payroll and relieve some of our business expenses (rent, utilities, and taxes).

We are grateful for the opportunity to apply for this fund. It's reassuring to hear that there are people and organizations/companies looking out for small businesses like ours. 


Michelle & Grace Jeong