Come next year, the local legacy of Chinese restaurant Su Hong will cease to exist.
Owner David King plans to close his Palo Alto restaurant next year and retire after decades of running Su Hong in various locations in Palo Alto and Menlo Park.
King, who is in his late 70s, has sold the property at 4256 El Camino Real. A proposal to replace the restaurant with a five-story hotel is currently making its way through the city approval process.
David King plans to retire in 2019 after four decades of running Su Hong in Palo Alto and Menlo Park. Photo by Elena Kadvany.
"I've devoted all my life, pretty much, (to) Su Hong," King said on a recent morning before the restaurant opened, sitting in the large, traditional dining room. "I think it's about time for me to step back and step out and enjoy the rest of my life."
King left his native Taiwan for Palo Alto to attend business school at Santa Clara University in 1972. The first Su Hong opened in Menlo Park in 1977. Then came the first Palo Alto location at 4101 El Camino Way in 1987 and a takeout restaurant in Menlo Park in 1991.
About 10 years ago, King purchased the El Camino Real site, which was then a Denny's. He remodeled and opened the new Su Hong in 2010.
King's ex-wife, Bee King, sold both Menlo Park Su Hong locations in 2015. (While the new owner changed the name of the take-out restaurant, he kept the Su Hong menu — to the relief of many fervent customers, including yours truly.)
A developer plans to demolish Su Hong and build a hotel at 4256 El Camino Real. Photo by Elena Kadvany.
King has served generations of local families and Chinese immigrants who have moved to Palo Alto. Iris Chen, for example, belongs to a four-generation family of Su Hong diners: her husband, his mother (70 years old), his grandmother (93 years old) and their daughter (8 years old).
King said his retirement plan was expedited by familiar restaurant pressures: the decreasing availability of quality staff and increasing labor and food costs.
"These days it's harder and harder to get help — I won't even say good help," he said. "The profit margin is getting smaller and smaller and smaller."
King, who lives behind the restaurant, is looking forward to the end of 15-hour work days. He plans to travel, golf, garden and generally relax in retirement, which he's hoping will happen a year from now.
"I'm counting down," King said. "It's time to say goodbye."