New China Inn, a 40-year-old downtown Findlay restaurant located near the Blanchard River, will close next month. (Photo by Randy Roberts / The Courier)

By LOU WILIN
STAFF WRITER

New China Inn, a 40-year-old downtown Findlay establishment and survivor of multiple floods by the nearby Blanchard River, will be closing in mid-October.

Gene and Anna Chin have sold the property at 113 S. Main St. to Wen Su Lu, the owner of QQ Garden, 1331 N. Main St.

Lu said this week he has not decided what he will do with the property. The deal will close Oct. 22, Anna Chin said.

It’s bittersweet for Anna.

“I’ve got mixed feelings. I enjoy what I’m doing, but we’re getting old,” said Anna, who admits to being about 65. “Someday, you have a beginning and an end. I will miss all my customers.”

It was those customers, who came in to eat and were waited on by Anna, that she has cherished most about the restaurant. The customers returned again and again over the years and became friends with Anna. Gene did the cooking.

When floods came and New China had to be closed for months at a time, the customers checked on the Chins’ welfare. They gave needed encouragement that yes, the hassles, heartaches and headaches of repairing and restoring the restaurant would be worth it.

“Everything” had to be replaced after the 2007 and 2008 floods, she said: the freezer, refrigerator, heater, air conditioner, hot water tank, walls, flooring and various furnishings.

“The thing is, the river is sewer water, scummy, sticky and smelly,” Anna said.

It left a brown coating on everything.

“So we needed to throw everything away and start from scratch. That’s hard,” she said.

Six months after the August 2007 flood, it flooded again in early 2008.

“We were in the middle of remodeling, and then it’s (flooded) all over again in ’08,” Anna recalled. The two floods “made my life turn upside down.”

For 15 months, New China was closed. But its customers did not give up on the eatery.

“Customers knocked on my door. ‘Are you all right? When will you open? We would like to come eat.’ They kept checking,” Chin said.

New China Inn has followers not only across Ohio, but across the nation. Former Findlay residents now in Florida, Arizona and other states have returned to the eatery while in town for business, family visits, and funerals. They have brought children and grandchildren, who also have joined the following and become friends.

“They keep me posted. They bring one generation, two generations, three generations, four generations, come here, keep me posted,” Anna said. “It’s kind of bonding … They tell me how their kids are doing … Of course, they come to eat. They enjoy eating. We just talk, chitchat.”

“They always come back,” she said. “They treat me so well. I am so lucky. I am so thankful for them.”

“I’ve met a lot of nice people,” Anna said. “It’s not something money can buy.”

It’s been a long journey for Anna, who immigrated from Hong Kong to Detroit in the 1970s.

Gene Chin and his father, Frank, initially planned to move to Columbus to open a restaurant. But as they were driving through Findlay, they saw the storefront was for sale. They called the phone number. They never made it to Columbus.

The Chins liked Findlay. They saw it as a safe town, a good place to raise their family.

Initially it was an adjustment. Findlay was much quieter than Detroit or Hong Kong. Sometimes, they drove back to Detroit to get another taste of the big city flavor.

But over time, something happened. They increasingly felt like they did not fit in the big city. They had become used to the peace, quiet and slower pace of Findlay.

They plan to stay here in retirement.

Wilin: 419-427-8413
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