Bay Area Proud

A Santa Cruz Mountain Love Story: Saving The Red Pearl

"She loves us and we love her."

NBC Universal, Inc.

This is, seriously, a love story.

It's not between two people, though. It's between a Santa Cruz Mountains town and its Chinese restaurant.

The people of Boulder Creek seriously love The Red Pearl and its owner, Jenny Wu. And she loves them right back.

What's more, both have spent the past year proving it to each other.

"Everybody is so nice, so friendly," Wu said. "They all want to support you."

Wu has run The Red Pearl in the middle of downtown Boulder Creek for 15 years. This past year, for obvious reasons, has been the hardest.

"Yes," Wu said. "Last year super hard."

Like restaurants everywhere, the Coronavirus Pandemic has put a huge dent in the Red Pearl's business, but Wu has had to deal with so much more hardship. In August, the CZU Complex wildfire tore through the region. Hundreds of homes were lost, including Wu's. Adding insult to injury, the restaurant remained closed for weeks while the area was under evacuation orders.

Still, the moment evactuations were lifted, Wu's first thoughts were about helping her neighbors.

"The first thing she did when she came back into town was put tables out there and have meals for the entire community," Valerie White, a friend and customer, said. "That's how Jenny is."

Residents of Boulder Creek returned the favor by raising thousands of dollars to help get Wu back on her feet.

The story, however, doesn't end there.

Last week, during a power outage, a thief stole $1,000 in cash from the Red Pearl. As word spread, a GoFundMe popped up, one that has already raised more than five times what Wu lost.

"When we heard she lost money, I just knew it was going to go viral," Valerie Wildflower, a 3-year employee of the Red Pearl, said. "Just the love and gratitude she showed everybody else."

Wildflower said customers also went out of their way to give Wu business. Last weekend, they were so swamped there was a 2-hour wait for food and the restaurant had to stop taking orders 3 hours before closing time.

"Not a single person complained," Wildflower said.

Others simply pressed hundreds of dollars in cash into Wu's hands.

"I feel tears. I feel so moved," Wu said.

In spite of all the hardships of the past year, Wu said she never considered closing her doors or moving away for one moment. That's because it has been made very clear to her just how important her restaurant is to the community. It is exactly the same way she feels about them.

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