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Gift shop saved by small business fund

By Sophie Flay

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    LOS ANGELES (KABC) — Wrapping gifts comes easy to Carol Tanita. She’s been managing the Japanese gift shop, Rafu Bussan, in Little Tokyo for nearly 50 years.

The shop specializes in traditional Japanese dishware and cultural goods. It is owned by Aiko Kawaratani, who took over the store in 1958 with her late husband.

Tanita says this is the type of place that has repeat customers, generation after generation.

“It’s a legacy business,” said Tanita.

When COVID hit, they shut down for three months at the beginning of the pandemic. They reopened by appointment-only in July 2020.

They were able to keep going when they received funding from the Little Tokyo Small Business Fund, which was organized by the Little Tokyo Community Council.

“It’s one thing to survive on your own. But if you’re the only one left, what does that mean? So, to really make sure that we bring everyone with us to the end and get through this together, I think that’s what’s always driven Little Tokyo,” said Managing Director Kristin Fukushima of the Little Tokyo Community Council.

It’s that strong tie to the Little Tokyo community that’s kept them going through the hard times.

“We had the support of the community. So, we’re very appreciative to Little Tokyo Community Council for the grant,” said Tanita.

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