Local restaurants to raise money for Japan


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Andy Diep was afraid people would forget about the March 11 tsunami before Japan got enough help.

So to do his part, the owner of the sushi restaurant Konomi, 843 Quarry Road, organized a coalition of 15 Iowa City and Coralville restaurants that will raise money for the Red Cross relief effort.

“I wanted to do this right now, at this moment, while everyone is still thinking about it,” Diep, 34, said.

Starting today and ending Thursday, restaurants will donate 10 percent of their sales to relief efforts for the 9.0 magnitude earthquake that hit Japan March 11, resulting in a tsunami.

“Simply, I own a Japanese restaurant,” said Diep, who has friends who live in Japan. “I just want to give back.”

Diep recruited other restaurants to participate in only a few days by going door-to-door. There was no time to waste, he said.

“Disaster’s always happening somewhere,” he said. “I want to be focused and get it done.”

Other restaurant owners were eager to do their part.

“It was a cause he was trying to raise money for,” said Erik Shewmaker, the owner and operator of Blackstone, 503 Westbury Drive. “I saw it as a great opportunity to give back.”

Shewmaker said his restaurant has supported such causes as the lymphoma society and fundraisers for City High before, but this is the first time Blackstone has teamed up with other restaurants.

Mathew Chackalackal, the owner of One Twenty Six and Hearth, 126 E. Washington St., said his restaurants have long been involved in fundraising.

“Anytime people approach us with a worthy cause, we try to do our part,” he said.

A donation of 10 percent roughly equals the profit margin after expenses are taken out. And even though restaurants will essentially lose their profit margins in the name of a good cause, restaurant procedure will remain the same, Shewmaker said.

“We’re just tightening our belts for one week,” he said.

Owners estimate that 10 percent of their revenue will range between $1,000 to $3,000.

“I think it’s great that Iowa City is stepping up,” said Iowa City City Councilor Regenia Bailey. “It’s always great to see people [donating] in the wake of national disaster.”

In addition to organizing the fundraiser, Diep said he’s going beyond the next four days. On Friday, Konomi will donate 100 percent of revenue to the Red Cross as well as proceeds from a silent auction he is planning.

Restaurant owners will deposit their donations into a Midwest One Bank account under the name Iowa City Coralville Care. At the end of the week, Diep will close the account and present the check to the Red Cross.

“Here in town, people are really supportive,” he said. “People are really generous.”

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