Ching "Tim" Huang and his wife, Yvonne, worked for five long years to buy their own little luncheonette in Linthicum. Now, the Huangs aresuffering because people have confused them with the Korean operators of a massage parlor next door to their restaurant.
"I am Oriental. They are Oriental. We look the same," Tim Huang said.
But they are not the same. "I am a Chinese. I come from Taiwan. They are Korean. Before I moved here, I didn't know them," he said.
The Huangs, both 31, opened Linthicum Luncheteria last year in a small strip shopping center at 500 Camp Meade Road. But they have been plagued ever since by V.I.P. Spa, a massage parlor shut down this month for violating county zoning laws. The Huangs routinely held their breath as customers left the restaurant, hoping they would not walk past the parlor.
"After dinner, they walk around, find out what's next door and never come back," said Yvonne Huang.
The parlor was closed for violating zoning laws, but police have reported observing female masseuses manually stimulating nude male clients there.
Sincethe story broke, the Huangs say business is down 50 percent. Many lunchtime customers from Westinghouse Corp. and other North County businesses are staying away, they say.
"We used to have a line here. Now, no line," Yvonne Huang said.
"I am very, very worried," said her husband.
The Huangs are certain that people believe they are involved with V.I.P. Tim Huang said one man -- who came in for a soda after visiting V.I.P. -- told him, "You all come from the same boat."
He is so frustrated that he's thought of printing fliers explaining that he has no connection with V.I.P. "I am not the people next door," he says. "They make $60 an hour. My hamburger is $1.25."
Tim Huang -- cheerful, slight and energetic -- came to this country fiveyears ago with one bag of luggage, $100 and not a word of English. Several months after he arrived, he brought his wife over. Today they live in Arnold with their two children, ages 4 and 11 months.
When hefirst arrived in Anne Arundel, Tim Huang says, he took the only jobshe could find -- as a busboy and dishwasher -- and learned English as he worked. "Someone would say, 'This is sugar,' " he explains, holding up a packet, "and I would go around all day saying, 'Sugar, sugar, sugar!"
Eventually he learned to cook and started working at local restaurants. For about 1 1/2 years he worked two full-time jobs, 70 or 80 hours a week. Last year, he and his wife borrowed $95,000 to start their own restaurant.
"That's why now I feel bad, because I worked hard. I try to make something for my two kids, to make a better life. But (the massage parlor) next door now almost kills me," he says.
The Huangs are angry because they feel their landlord, Michael Cusimano Jr. of Annapolis, misled them about their fellow tenant. Cusimano could not be reached. The Huangs say they were told a doctor's office that practices acupuncture was moving in next door.
But soon the Huangs saw girls in bikinis sunbathing behind theshopping center. They saw people parking far away and walking to V.I.P., even when the parking lot was empty. Men in expensive cars -- Cadillacs, Mercedes-Benzes -- regularly showed up.
As Tim Huang explained the situation to a reporter this week, a man in a Mercedes pulled into the parking lot and quickly turned around and left.
Alan Engel, the Huangs' attorney, said that legal action is unlikely and that the coupleisn't interested in breaking their lease. "Tim wants to be a successful businessman. He's committed to the business. He's committed to Linthicum," Engel says.
The Huangs are just as disgusted as other Linthicum residentsabout V.I.P.
"We never heard of that in my country," says Yvonne Huang.
Massage is popular in Asian countries, Tim Huang explained, but not the kind of massage they practice at V.I.P.