When you think of Fresco’s, “Asian business” does not come to mind. On a daily basis, the restaurant serves a variety of Mexican cuisine, from fajitas to tostada salads. But despite the warm tacos and tortillas it serves to the Poughkeepsie community, Fresco’s has been an Asian-owned business for eight years. Kim, the owner of Fresco’s, has had to adjust her small restaurant to a pandemic-stricken world. For the most part, however, the adjustment hasn’t been difficult. “We closed our shop for a month [after we heard about the pandemic],” she explained to me on the phone. “After that we’ve been doing takeout for the last year.” Fresco’s continues to sell warm tortillas to Vassar students and Poughkeepsie residents.
Kim has been living in the United States for 16 years, but only came to New York eight years ago. Her family originally emigrated from Fujian, China, to the United States, and as she described her past, she recalled some of her struggles settling in a new country. “What was most difficult was adjusting myself to English,” Kim said. “My English wasn’t great at first.” As she settled down, what drew her to Poughkeepsie was the community. “There are a lot of Chinese families in the town,” she said. “Overall, I feel that it’s a safe place with many nice people, with lots of police, teachers and doctors.”
Upon arriving in Poughkeepsie, Kim soon acquired Fresco’s after the previous owner retired. Today she continues to serve tacos, enchiladas and other favorites through takeout, and while she says nothing major has changed, she did explain to me some of the precautions she adopted when news of the virus spread. “It was simple,” she explained. “I continued to disinfect tables, wear masks and wash my hands once I was outside of work.”
As we talked, she briefly asked me about my own life at Vassar. “You’re an A.B.C. [American Born Chinese], right?” she asked. We had been speaking Mandarin through our interview, which had made me realize how much I had missed speaking the language back home with my parents. “My children, too, are in college,” she said. “I’ve always wondered what it’s like for them there.” While Kim told me she didn’t experience any anti-Asian racism during the pandemic, she has worried about her children: “I’m worried if they’re facing any racism on campus.”
She seemed to be in disbelief when I told her about how students weren’t allowed to leave campus at the time of the interview. “I see students come here all the time!” she cried. “Without masks!” I asked her to clarify. “Yes, I see them walking in front of our building,” Kim said. “So many of them,” though I couldn’t verify if they were students from Vassar.
And while her business continues to serve takeout, Kim explained how many dining restaurants have suffered since the pandemic. At the end of our interview, Kim emphasized safety as an important thing to keep in mind during COVID-19. “Wear protection, don’t leave campus without masks,” she said in a terse but well-meaning manner. Continuing to practice COVID-19 protocol means the sooner restaurants can open and Fresco’s can allow indoor dining again.
To place an order, call Fresco’s at (845) 485-6650.