MILWAUKEE - Mekong Cafe near 60th and North has been around for more than a decade and just barely survived the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week, it was hit with something worse that could change its open sign to closed – permanently.
Still weathering the storm, the business owner said she lost about thousands of dollars in product when her grocery store lost power after severe weather struck Tuesday, Aug. 10. However, she's having difficulty proving it. The small business is close to begging.
"I don’t usually ask for help," said Sichanh Volp.
When Volp and her mother opened Mekong Cafe 13 years ago, it was a popular, authentic Thai and Vietnamese buffet. Then COVID-19 hit.
"We need to make the choice now…what are we going to do? Keep the dining room empty or make this pivot?" Volp said.
In February, Mekong Cafe morphed into a grocery store. The family put every last dollar into saving the business, but the storms dealt a blow more devastating than COVID-19.
Volp said the storm knocked out power form Tuesday night until Thursday evening, Aug. 12. Inventory was spoiled.
"It was about $20,000-$30,000 of products that we had," Volp said.
And to make matters worse, she can't prove it. Volp said We Energies only has a record of lost power for a few hours, not days. She needs proof for her insurance.
"As you can imagine, we have been hearing from a number of customers – both residential and businesses – so we are developing a letter that we’ll send out to people that will be more general that will acknowledge the extreme outages on Aug. 10th," said Brendan Conway with We Energies.
Volp has started a GoFundMe online fundraiser, asking for the public's help to cover what was tossed to the curb when the lights went out. It may be the only way out of the red.
"It was to a point where Monday I just walked out. I cried. I told mom, ‘I can’t do this. I can’t,’" said Volp.
We Energies estimates 240,000 customers lost power and 2,000 trees fell within the service area.