Thursday December 27, 2012

Billy Zheng, along with about a dozen staffers at Panda House Restaurant, were busy serving food Christmas Day.

The Berkshires resembled a ghost town in some ways, with national chain stores and small businesses largely shutting their doors for Christmas; however, many local Asian restaurants opened during the holiday because it’s one of the most profitable days of the year.

"This is the most important thing, is that the other days are tough [economically]," said Zheng, owner of Panda House, citing competition from the volume of local restaurants.

"In regular days, it’s not very good. It’s one or two holidays -- why don’t we keep open to keep busy and cover the other days?"

Panda House typically runs with a staff of about five employees, Zheng said, but he had friends from Chicago and New York helping out at the restaurant, bringing out a small army of about a dozen to deal with the boom in customers on Christmas Day and Christmas Eve.

In North Adams, China Buffet manager Pramod Warriar said the holidays are always a busy time, with large families coming out.

Jacob Wei, manager of Koi Chinese restaurant in Great Barrington, also said Christmas is one of the busiest days of the year. He said additional staffing was on hand for the rush.


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Local Asian restaurant owners said cultural differences that come from immigrating from another country played a minimal role, but they attributed sales as a motivation.

Zheng said Christmas and other American holidays are increasingly being celebrated in China.

Zheng, 26, didn’t celebrate in the small village in which he grew up in southern China, but he recalled that his first Christmas celebration left an imprint. He was a 12-year-old who had just moved to New York and was overwhelmed with the lights and presents from nine cousins, his parents and grandparents.

Ever since he was in high school, Zheng recalls commuting from New York City to Pittsfield by bus to lend a hand at the restaurant on Christmas Day.

He said Christmas does carry sentimental value. A watch he received from his father on Christmas, which no longer works, but he still holds dear, is encompassing of that sentiment.

"He told me in America time is very important," Zheng said. "He told me ... you are going to get older and time will go fast."