CHINA Cuisine is under new ownership. Their common victualler/all-alcohol license transfer to PH Wealth Inc. was approved by the Select Board. From left: De Sheng Zhu of PH Wealth, former owner Victor Hui and new manager Shanshan Ou. (Maureen Doherty Photo)

 

By MAUREEN DOHERTY

NORTH READING — It’s the end of an era as Victor and May Hui have sold their restaurant, China Cuisine, 235 Main St. Their common victualler/all-alcohol license was unanimously transferred from China Cuisine Inc. to PH Wealth by a 5-0 vote of the Select Board Feb. 7 following a public hearing.

They also approved the new manager, Shanshan Ou. The business name will remain China Cuisine. There are no changes being made to the 4,000 square foot 86-seat restaurant which has an occupancy of 95 people.

Represented by attorney Chris Coleman, he introduced the current owner Victor Hui, the new manager, Shanshan Ou, and De Sheng Zhu, one of the new owners, to the board.

The hours of operation also remain the same, Coleman said, which are Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday noon to 9 p.m.

“There is no change in layout or menu and in fact just about every employee there now will remain,” Coleman said. The proposed manager, Shanshan Ou, has been working there since October of last year and is working under Victor and learning as much about the operation as she can. She is Tips trained, is a U.S. citizen and will be there 40 hours-plus every week.”

Select Board Chairwoman Kate Manupelli asked the attorney if “Victor will be completely out of the operation if this transfer is approved?”

Coleman said, “He still is the owner of the building and will be the landlord, and Victor’s son Benjamin will be working there and will be a 20% owner.” It was also clarified that May Hui will be a secretary but not a director in the operation.

“That gives us a comfort to know that you both will be hanging around,” Manupelli said.

She asked Ou about her experience in other establishments. Ou stated that her parents own a take-out restaurant in Somerville. “I worked there since 2010 and also my parents will be helping me,” Ou said, adding that she will be leaving that restaurant to work at China Cuisine full time.

Victor Hui added Ou’s parent’s are selling their restaurant and “her parents will come to work here.”

Ou said, “We help each other.”

“I am happy for Victor and May, and that you will retain ownership of the property. You have run a fabulous business and were a tremendous asset to the business community as a whole,” commented Select Board member Steve O’Leary. To Ou, O’Leary said: “You have big shoes to fill and expectations that hopefully you can meet because Victor and May assimilated into this community rather quickly and are well beloved. You are picking up a good operation with a good reputation, and we wish you success.”

Victor Hui said that he began at China Cuisine in 1996 but it originally did not “work out the way I like so I left and worked with my friend in another place.” But he returned in 2004 when he bought out “my former partner.”

Select Board member Rich Wallner commented that as long as he could recall Victor and May have been at the corner of North and Main Streets and he thanked them for always supporting the community and running a great restaurant. He added that they will be missed but the community will also welcome the new owners.

“My kids will only eat Victor’s food,” commented Select Board member Vincenzo Stuto, so even when his family is visiting his parents in Malden, if they are getting Asian take-out he has to get it from China Cuisine. “It’s consistency; that is what you look for in restaurants. You can tell pretty quickly when something is consistent. Congratulations on your retirement,” he said.

“For me it’s so personal. We go so far back, my kids and Victor’s kids. Jennifer (Hui) was one of my Girl Scouts,” said Select Board member Liane Gonzalez. “I am so happy you will still be part of it and even more happy that Ben (Hui) is jumping in there… I hope you can take it easy now and go travel and enjoy yourselves.”

Manupelli agreed. “You and your wife are a fixture here…They know me and I know them and that is really the magic that happens when you operate a business in a small community. It makes you feel like family when you go there.”

In welcoming Ou to the business community, Manupelli said, “I am sure you will do great and you are here for the long run. If there are any questions or issues you do not have to worry about asking us. We are here to help you make it a success.”