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benten sushi

Benten’s Kenneth Lee was surprised and grateful when he heard his friends and community members wanted to start a GoFundMe page for him that will help pay his overhead. Photo by Julianne Mosher

A Miller Place woman is asking sushi connoisseurs to help support a local business who was hit hard thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Benten Sushi and Fine Japanese Cuisine on Route 25A has been struggling to keep their doors open, like many restaurants and small businesses, over the course of the last year. 

Marlene DuBois, a friend of Kenneth Lee — who has owned the spot for nearly two decades — decided to start up a GoFundMe online, to help support him as he adjusts to this new normal. 

“He’ll never ask for help,” she said. “But he was mentioning there were some problems and I knew this was a serious thing.”

DuBois said she and Lee have been friends for about 30 years, since his family opened up their first location in Mount Sinai, but she’s also a good customer — noting that the sushi at Benten is different than all the rest. 

“He is a real stickler for authenticity,” she said. “It’s super fresh, he’s the only person who gets fish from local Long Island fishermen.”

Compared to other local sushi joints, he offers pure authenticity. A quiet business owner, when Lee mentioned his stress maintaining his shop throughout the pandemic, DuBois said something had to be done. 

“If we go on for another six months to a year in the pandemic, all our local eateries are going to be gone,” she said. “Any mom and pop shop that we can help, and support is important.”

DuBois created the online fundraiser in early February and to date it has over $2,500 of generous donations that will go to Lee’s location.

And he was shocked when he found out his friend was doing this. 

“I am so grateful,” he said, modestly. “It’s been very tough.”

Lee said the funds his friend raised will go to upkeep of the restaurant, which has been too expensive to fix in COVID times. 

DuBois said that supporting a restaurant, like Benten, is crucial as Long Island nears the one-year mark of quarantine. 

“If people don’t want to donate to the GoFundMe, I’m just trying to encourage them to order from him,” she said. “Support your favorite restaurants… It’s important.”

Visit gofundme.com for more information