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Thursday, April 28, 2005

Memory Wok

By James Lomuscio

WestportNow Special Correspondent

As steam rose from the simmering wok in the kitchen this morning, Johnny Wong was out in the alley alongside his restaurant, The Ships Corner Chinese Take-out, to supervise the placement of a dumpster. After 20 years in the heart of Westport’s downtown at 23 Jesup Road, the restaurant will close for the last time tonight at 10. 04280501ShipsCornerClose.jpg
Owner Johnny Wong founded the restaurant 20 years ago. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
The woks, pots, and pans will be washed one last time, Wong said, before being tossed into the dumpster Friday.

“I lost my lease, and five weeks ago the landlord sent me a letter that I would have to be out,” said Wong. “On Monday I’m going to give the key to the landlord.

“My customers, they’re all hurt,” he added, tapping his chest. “A lot of customers are looking for a place for me to stay in Westport.”

For the past 18 months since Wong’s lease from Greenwich-based Win Proprties, Inc. expired, his business has been surviving on a month-to-month basis. Wong says he has paid a total of $5,000 a month in rent and taxes, an amount he is sure will climb in the event he finds another location in Westport.

“For the past two years I’ve just been working for the landlord,” said Wong, adding that he and six others will be out of work tomorrow.

Wong, who immigrated to the Westport from Hong Kong 22 years ago, said The Ships Corner was his first business in the United States, “and I’ve been very lucky because the Westport and Weston people have been very nice customers.”

“And I’ve had customers from all over, from Wilton, Fairfield, and Norwalk, too,” he said.

Wong said he is closing just before his busiest season, noting that summer visitors to the Levitt Pavilion routinely stopped in before or after concerts to buy take out. He also drew patrons from the teen center, Toquet Hall, as well as summer patrons who wanted to eat Chinese takeout on a bench beside the Saugatuck River.

The restaurant bore a name similar to the restaurant, The Ships, a popular Post Road gathering place around the corner during the early 1980s, and for many The Ships Corner was the last vestige of that era. The Ships Corner was even mentioned in the murder mystery novel “Ticked Off” by Gaila Ozaki Perran.

Wong, who owns a house a Richmondville Avenue with his wife Judy, son Andrew, 13, and daughter Amy, nine, says he plans to still live in Westport even if he does not find another suitable in-town business location. Some customers have suggested that he open another place near the Southport line, “but there are three Chinese restaurants within a mile there.”

Wong insists that wherever he reopens, it won’t be too far from his longtime customers.

“I want to stay in Westport,” he said.

04280502ShipsCornerClose.jpg
Wong takes his final lunch orders at the Jesup Road location. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

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Posted 04/28/05 at 04:06 PM  Permalink



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Didn’t this guy used to run Westport magazine?
He’s a pretty cool dude.

Posted by Igor Milo on April 28, 2005 at 10:05 PM | #
 

I think this restaurant would have been more successful if it was actually a ship on the water. It’s false advertising, and I fell for it more than once…Imagine if it really was the corner of a ship…and it only docked in town for part of the day. People would wait in line at the dock, and build shanties in the woods, float them out, and enjoy a soy-flavored salty seagoing treat. I mean it is called Ships Corner right? Hey, the Black Duck does pretty well with a similar plan, and heavy influence and support from everybody from the ‘Wreckers Gridiron Stuck In The Past Mans Club’ to NAMBLA. Somebody call the cops! I cant, theyre all at the Black Duck. (Laughter and Applause). What would they call it?

Posted by James P. Entalado on April 29, 2005 at 01:28 AM | #
 

Somebody get James back to Hall Brooke for his medication.

Posted by Ships on April 29, 2005 at 12:01 PM | #
 

How many axes is that guy grinding in one paragraph??  :)

Posted by Big HarRold on May 03, 2005 at 04:41 AM | #