For Kevin Poon, co-founder of Hong Kong-based label CLOT and boutique retailer JUICE, the Covid-19 pandemic is long past lockdown and at the very early stages of getting back to normal. “It feels like we're watching the same movie, but we're 40 minutes ahead,” he says in today's episode of Vibe Check.

He's in a very fortunate position as a small business owner, where he's had the opportunity to actually open a new location instead of shuttering several during this weird time in history. He recently opened a branch of his Elephant Grounds Cafe in Chengdu, albeit with strong social distancing measures in place and a business model that primarily revolves around to-go orders.

But he's also experiencing a bit of what economists have called “revenge spending” in Asian countries where malls and clothing stores are reopening, cautiously welcoming consumers who are more than eager to cop up fresh gear. Listen to the full episode to hear what it's looking like on the other side of the pandemic.

The below interview is a transcribed version of ‘Vibe Check.’ It has been edited and condensed for clarity.

You guys obviously are at a much further along in the recovery period, so it's a bit like we're looking at you to see what the end of this looks like. What's it like going out to eat, something that sounds so novel in the US?

Well, I think right now people are very precautionary. So when you leave the house, you definitely put on a mask; you have a side pouch of a hand sanitizer. When you go out, they check your temperature at the door — some places, they'll make you fill out a health declaration form making sure they have your contact info, you haven't had outside travel in the past 14 days, or anyone in your house hasn't had [Covid-19], and then they seat you. But you're only allowed four people to a table, and the next table has to be empty, so there's one empty table in between every occupied table so to speak.

What's the shopping scene like? 

A lot of the customers are starting to come back into the stores, but we've been relying heavily on online, doing online promotions and trying to see how we can corral that early pop-up energy and translate that. So far, it's been  all right. We're just making sure we stay active online, that the content is there, and we have interesting products in the pipeline.

Everyone's really just looking at 2021 to be honest. For us it's no different. We're spending this time doing a lot of internal control stuff, making sure all the teams are on the same page, territories are communicating frequently, and everyone stays really happy, positive and in good spirits. We're taking care of them the best that we can.

Of course, product has still been coming out online, but we've seen reports about “revenge spending” in physical retail in Asia. Have you guys experienced that?

We've seen “revenge shopping” so to speak, [people] buying like 10 pairs of pants or five T-shirts. The whole summer, people probably haven't been shopping too much, but now since the things are coming back,  people are wanting to cop new stuff, new sneakers, the new new.

You're also in the very fortunate position of actually opening a business, a new branch of the Elephant Grounds Cafe in Chengdu. What challenges did you face bringing that into fruition?

KP: I mean, it's a challenging time. We were not expecting this when we signed the lease about a year ago. Chengdu is one of the cities that we really like. It's the land of the pandas, so people are very laid back there, and they have outdoor malls similar to  Century City in Los Angeles.

The space that we took is near a five-star hotel called the Temple House. Off-White™'s right next to us, so it's a pretty good location. So far, it seems like people still need coffee, croissants, and little essential things, so we haven't been hit that hard. But we've definitely been able to pivot doing curbside pickups, deliveries, utilizing apps for ordering and events, and really trying to automate every process so there's less human-to-human interaction.

Speaking of community, of course May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month in the US. There's also been a wave of anti-Asian sentiment amidst thee pandemic. I feel like street culture has traditionally been a platform where marginalized people can speak about these inequalities freely.

I think people are often fearful of the unknown. And with this generation, there's a lot of news circulating that we doesn't actually know if it's real. There are lot of conspiracy theories about who patient zero is for the coronavirus and how it started. And to be honest, in these type of situations, there is no right or wrong. I think we're all in one boat together, and that boat is earth, and you really have to love your neighbors.

More love and less hate and less fear is the way forward. Because people are just afraid because they don't know, and they're not informed. And I think people just need to put their differences aside and just try to build how God created us instead of being divided. It's up to our generation to make a change, so how do we do that? And I feel it's really just trying to try to help one another, love thy neighbor, and just trying to keep it positive.

Stay tuned for new episodes of ‘Vibe Check’ released every Tuesday and Thursday.

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