SPRINGHILL – It was May 27, 1985, when a young couple took a chance and started their first business venture together.
© Christopher Gooding photo
After 28-years as the owners and operators of the Jade Palace, Mimi and John Lee are retiring.
In time, they would raise their family here and serve an unimaginable amount of sweet and sour chicken balls.
Mimi and John Lee have had 28 and-a-half successful years together and as operators of the Jade Palace here in Springhill. Both landed immigrants from China – Mimi leaving Hong Kong in in 1982, John from mainland China in 1975, both when they were just 19-years old – Springhill was not their first destination. It was Sydney, Cape Breton.
“John used to work in my uncles restaurant,” Mimi says. “It always sounds funny, but it was love at first sight.”
Mimi’s uncle was in the restaurant business with a number of operations, but when opportunity presented itself, the young couple to a chance and went into business together. Amherst businessman James “Jimmy” Mah had opened the Jade Palace in Springhill to compliment his Amherst business, the Dragon Inn. After a year of operation Mah sold the business to the young couple and many years of success followed.
“We came to town the same year we bought it,” Mimi says. “I was 22 years-old.”
The Lees would go on to have two children – Richard and Jennie – and become respected members of the local business community.
And now, it’s time for another pair of newcomers to carry the mantle.
Mimi and John announced they are retiring this month. New owners for the restaurant have been found, and the Lees will have a hand in the transition.
“It’s time,” Mimi said. “We have to start deciding should family come first, our health or work… our own parents are older [Mimi’s live in Scarborough and John’s in Cape Breton] and our kids are grown up now. We only had Monday’s to connect with them.”
The Lees are staying in Springhill, but won’t have the constraint of their business hours to hold them back from enjoying life. The new owners, hailing from British Columbia’s Queen Charlotte Islands, are members will continue to run and operate the business as a Chinese restaurant.
“When we decided to sell the business last year, we wanted there to still be a Chinese restaurant in Springhill,” Mimi said. “We used word of mouth, I listed the business in Chinese newspapers, – some said why don’t I list it in English newspapers, too – but I wanted it to still be a Chinese restaurant.”
The new owners have relocated and will take over the business Wednesday. Mimi says the menu will stay the same, with some additions in the future.
The Lees plan on staying in Springhill, using their newfound spare time to visit family.