Cambrian: Slice of Life

Can a local business closing be like losing a family member or friend? Absolutely

Cambria’s only Asian restaurant, Dragon Bistro, has closed.
Cambria’s only Asian restaurant, Dragon Bistro, has closed. ktanner@thetribunenews.com

There are many reasons people feel bereft or abandoned.

It’s easy to feel that way when a romantic relationship falls apart, there’s a fatal schism between family members, your job is downsized or you’re fired. After all, those are huge blows to your pride and self confidence.

Likewise, when an important but unrelated someone (such as a longtime family doctor) retires or dies, there can be a sense of desertion and grief, of something that’s both missing and irreplaceable.

But feeling bereft when someone else’s business closes?

You bet, sometimes with an element of guilt and the underlying awareness of “if only I’d gone there more often, maybe this wouldn’t have happened.”

On Jan. 25, we learned that Cambria’s only Chinese restaurant, Dragon Bistro, has closed.

Yeah, we’re forlorn.

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No more sharing favorite entrees, like honey walnut shrimp, egg foo young and Three Delicacies Delight. No more abundant meals there with visiting family, take-out on tired nights or impromptu lunches with friends who also enjoyed the food and the off-hours quiet ambiance (helpful when two of the diners wear hearing aids).

Emily Fang said her parents Allen and Mi Sun Fang “finally decided to close up shop and retire” after 30 years in the restaurant business.”

They’d come to Cambria from Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Online, she thanked the Fangs’ loyal customers for “years of support, love and friendship.”

We know how painful that decision was: We retired from the daily grind of the scratch-made food business after founding and running for about 11 years our Upper Crust Bakery and Tearoom (now the French Corner).

Our decision had many factors. Our lease was ending and our rent was almost doubling. Ingredient costs were skyrocketing. It was nearly impossible to find and keep good, long-term employees. And we were profoundly exhausted from long hours on our feet and our responsibility to customers and staff.

We certainly wish the Fangs well, and hope their retirement is restful, fun and filled with laughter.

Emily told me her parents are staying in town, so we may see them from time to time. Maybe now, after their decade of seven-days-a-week of feeding others in Cambria, her parents can come to OUR place for dinner soon.

I hope so.

Because I’ll not only miss the Fangs’ food, I’ll miss Mi Sun’s hugs and Allen’s courtly thoughtfulness (he always remembered that our dishes couldn’t be too spicy or include bell pepper).

I’ll remember almond cookies she’d slip to us occasionally, and their amazement about our gift of a holiday bagful of Mandarin nectarines with the leaves still attached (an Oriental symbol of good luck and riches).

And most of all, I’ll miss the Fangs’ caring concern … about Son Brian’s recent operations and lengthy recuperation, and Husband Richard’s ongoing health challenges. Mi Sun would fret about me, too, saying I was doing too much and wearing myself out. (Takes one to know one, Mi Sun! Maybe your wrist will heal now.)

Those recipes for loving aren’t on the menu. They’re in the heart, and that’s what I’ll miss most about our regular interactions with the Fangs.

About 10 years ago, when I first wrote about their fledgling Cambria business, I also posed a question from the www.the350project.net website.

The query is still valid.

The site asks, “What three independently owned businesses would you miss if they disappeared?

“Stop in. Say hello. Pick up something that brings a smile. Your purchases are what keep those businesses around.”

According to U.S. Department of Labor statistics when the column was written, “If half the employed population spent $50 each month in locally owned independent businesses, it would generate more than $42.6 billion in revenue.”

I’m sure that’s increased since then.

The website concluded that “for every $100 spent in locally owned, independent stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures. If you spend that in (a local branch of) a national chain, only $43 stays here.

“Spend it online, and NOTHING comes home,” unless that Web site is for a local store.

Despite a supposedly booming economy, these are tough times for any business, new or established.

So, as I said then, if you like what you see and you want a shop or restaurant to stay in business, then go there whenever you can.

We’ll miss doing that at Dragon Bistro.

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