Town Square

The First Hunan Chef Wong Closing

Original post made by Enjoyed Chef Wong on Mar 9, 2013

I was so sad to hear the other night that the 1st Chef Hunan Wong (near Vic's downtown) is closing after 28 years in that location. Yolanda, Margie, and the rest of the crew are always so kind. They treated everyone like family. We really enjoyed their food, and in fact it was the only Chinese restaurant we patronized in the years we've lived here. They apparently were having trouble with the landlord or property management company (Castlewood Properties). I can't imagine why a landlord would want to get rid of them. It's hardly a great location - if you don't have repeat or word-of-mouth customers you're dead. And, it's not like there are any other great Chinese (actually Chinese!) restaurants around. What idiots to let them go! I wish the family all the best.


Posted by Steve, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 9, 2013 at 3:52 pm

This is sad. Our kids grew up going there and loved being called "soy sauce boy" or "chicken girl" while I was always "boss". Hope they find a place to relocate.

Posted by Michael L., a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Mar 9, 2013 at 9:12 pm

Landlords in Pleasanton don't care about the businesses that are in their properties. I've talked with a number of business owners who told me they had their rents raised during the recession. Some of them moved out and the buildings remained vacant for months or years. The property owners don't care. They are rich. The buildings are paid off. Who else would raise rents when business is bad? Any landlord with a clue and who cared would be lowering rents. But not the few old boys who own most of Pleasanton's downtown.

Posted by Gunther, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2013 at 12:27 am

Well, imagine that. Capitalist landlords not caring about the businesses that are in their properties but only caring about profits as all good capitalists should. They don't care. Because they are rich. And they got rich by not caring. But that's capitalism. And capitalism is great. If a business can't afford the rents, well, that's simply the capitalist system improving itself and sacrificing the weak ones who can't compete with the big guys. If you don't like it, move to East Germany.

Posted by nancy s., a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2013 at 8:18 am

Hahaha gunther. There is no more "east germany".

Posted by Michael L. , a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Mar 10, 2013 at 8:24 am

My point is that we don't have free market Capitalism in downtown Pleasanton real estate business rentals. These landlords don't need the rent. They didn't get rich off of the main street properties. They were already rich from other sources. They are more like a privileged, landed Aristocracy. Most of downtown is owned by just 3 good old boys who know each other.

A Capitalist knows that to maximize profits you need to minimize vacancy, while seeking to optimize rents to what the market will bear. Pleasanton landlords will raise the rent and not care if the property remains vacant and money is lost and profits diminish. Some properties sit vacant for a year or more.

Landlords who seek to maximize profits might also lower rents when they know that the tenants have lower incomes due to a recession as they want to avoid tenants going bankrupt and vacating a property at a time when there might not be any other tenants to take the property. I have never heard of that happening in Pleasanton downtown.

Posted by Michael L. , a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Mar 10, 2013 at 8:30 am

Nancy S, Gunther longs for the return of E. Germany, that Utopian socialist paradise where the intellectual elite righted the wrongs of society, as only they could figure out.

He also goes by many names on PW and has a special talent for turning your words around and shifting his position so as to win the argument.

I suspect that he is a frustrated English teacher who enjoys bullying students as he will order you to the back of the class if you make any mistakes in English usage.

Posted by Gunther, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2013 at 10:54 am

Maximizing profit on one's property may well involve allowing it to stand vacant for months at a time. Perhaps we'll get in one of the big boys, a PF Chang or Panda Express or Chase Bank. Michael L's version of capitalism is small-minded and small-time. We've moved beyond corner lemonade stands, Michael.

I personally prefer living in places where capitalism is crimped in favor of the mom and pop, rather than allowed to otherwise inevitably squeeze out the small time shop owner/restauranteur. Were it not for family commitments, I'd live in Grenoble, France, for example, where rent ceilings are in place, people carte about one another, and the quality of life is much higher.

Michael L thinks Grenoble is East Germany. Michael L thinks anything critical of capitalism must be E. German like. He doesn't understand that there are many variants of socialism on this planet. In his ignorance and evangelical fervor, he chooses to reduce all forms of socialism to that which happened with a tiny satellite of the soviet union.

Posted by Michael L. , a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Mar 10, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Gunther you don't get out much and you contradict yourself. First you are in favor of PF Chang and then you say you prefer Mom and Pop. There's already a PF Chang's at the Stoneridge Mall where they have properties big enough to accommodate it. We are talking about downtown that was built for Mom and Pop businesses. I can tell that you have never studied real estate as you would know that it's always better to find a tenant before you oust a tenant, just like it's better to find a job before you quit a job. Less bargaining power if you are vacant or unemployed. Being a socialist you prefer to try and control the market rather than understand it, neither of which you are able to do. How much will it cost to send you and your family to Grenoble? I might start a charity drive on your behalf.

Posted by Gunther, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2013 at 12:28 pm

Never eaten at PF Chang's. But their presence, along with other chains, is the logic of your evangelically embraced capitalism. Most downtowns in America were indeed built for mom and pop businesses. But guess what? They now consist largely of banks and hotels and chains that can afford the higher rents that the capitalist landlords saw they could get. Sorry to wrench you from your childlike view of capitalism, which has never squared with reality and never will.

The logic of capital is to maximize profit, and this means the big eating the small. Little mom and pop grocers, hardware stores, and restaurants are all but passe. Capitalism demands it. Now for an evangelical capitalist like yourself to lament a mom and pop store being squeezed out of business is the height of irrationality.

I've got news for you. Downtowns change; and in capitalism, the logic is that they become increasingly the site of large business ventures. More news for you: many variants of socialism today do not resemble E. Germany in the least. I think we're all beginning to understand why you weren't able to succeed with your professed sociology degree; and I think we're all also beginning to doubt your claims of success as a traveling salesman.

Posted by Put your money, a resident of Downtown
on Mar 10, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Gunther, why don't you buy some property and rent it out at the rates that you think are reasonable?

Posted by Gunther, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2013 at 1:33 pm

I can only think of stupid answers for such a stupid question. I'm not in the money-making business. Michael L claims to be, though I tend to think his claims of self-success are more than a wee bit inflated. In his dreams perhaps. But in the real world, driven in many parts of the planet including our own by the logic of capital, one cannot embrace capitalism but at the same time criticize capitalist landowners for not caring about the tenants they oust for higher profit. Doing so is nothing short of irrational.

There are ways by which a community can decide to ensure that a community remains small-scale. Ceilings on rents is one of those ways. The landowners still make a profit, which they've made many times over since they've already paid for the land, but at a relatively fixed rate to ensure folksy mom and pop bakeries and butcher shops and eateries remain in business. Ah, but so doing isn't capitalism! Which is my point. You can't have it both ways. Either embrace your community or embrace the mighty dollar. In this instance, and in so many more, they simply are not compatible. It's easy for evangelical ninnies crow about the virtues of capitalism ... until they see their own community stripped of its character and replaced by yet another bank.

Posted by Couldn't Eat There Anymore, a resident of Country Fair
on Mar 10, 2013 at 3:01 pm

I am sorry, but have you ever checked out the uncleanliness of their kitchen and bathrooms. After viewing them, we could not eat there again. One would have thought, they would have closed years ago.

Posted by So Sad, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2013 at 9:25 pm

I've been going there for 28 years, then. Good food, nice people and good service. My daughter, 11, just said, "what are we going to do for Chinese food?" - she has never had any other Chinese take out. I wish the owners and staff the best.

Posted by Anne, a resident of Castlewood
on Mar 11, 2013 at 8:38 am

Oh no!! I hope they get this worked out or find another location. A

Posted by Mike, a resident of Carriage Gardens
on Mar 11, 2013 at 9:01 am

Very sad indeed. We've been going there for the 14 years we've lived in Pleasanton. I truly hope they find a new location. Greed sucks!

Posted by Love First Hunan Chef Wong, a resident of Valley View Elementary School
on Mar 11, 2013 at 9:09 am

It's so sad to hear that Chef Wong is closing! My kids have grown up knowing Yolanda and Margie. They treat you like family. I will miss them and hope that they will relocate to another place. Where will I get my noodle fix?

Posted by Bev Mederios, a resident of Downtown
on Mar 11, 2013 at 9:21 am

sorry to hear they are leaving as well, but there are other authentic Chinese Restaurants between Pleasanton, Livermore and the rest of the Tri-Valley: example, Uncle Yu's in the Vineyards in Livermore, Uncle Yu's in San Ramon on Crow Canyon, and over on Valley there is the Hunan Chef.....they even deliver if necessary.

Posted by Bev Mederios, a resident of Downtown
on Mar 11, 2013 at 9:31 am

just backing up the person from the fairgrounds neighborhood....could not eat there anymore either: and besides the kitchen and about the fish tank? that fish was so gigantic that it could barely move in the tank for much smaller fish, it was oh so gross..

Posted by Diane, a resident of Downtown
on Mar 11, 2013 at 9:35 am

I'm so sorry to hear that. My sons and I have eaten there since they were little -- even had a few of their birthday parties there. And now my son and his family eat there often as well. We've tried other local chinese restaurants but their food is really the best. I hope they are able to find something else but they work so hard, maybe they would enjoy the break.

Posted by ajay dhillon, a resident of Kottinger Ranch
on Mar 11, 2013 at 9:56 am

like so many others we have been eating there for years. It is a family run business and all of them work hard and treat the customers like family. Hope they will find another place nearby. Will miss them.

Posted by Ryan T, a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2013 at 10:18 am

Couldn't Eat There Anymore....

The best Chinese food comes from kitchen that are the filthiest. I've eaten here since I was a child... never been sick. One time when I ate at a Panda Express, I got very sick.

Posted by Guest, a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2013 at 10:44 am

So sad! That was the first Chinese restaurant I ever went too. "Boss Lady" is always so welcoming. Thank you for serving us great food for so long.

Posted by Weekly Reader, a resident of Vineyard Hills
on Mar 11, 2013 at 10:48 am

This makes me so sad. My family has eaten at First Hunan Chef Wong several times a month for years! No one has a better or more reasonable lunch special, and the personal treatment that Yolanda and her staff give to each and every person is irreplaceable. When my kids would be sick nothing was better than a large order of Won Ton soup. This is a huge loss for Pleasanton.

Posted by Enjoyed Chef Wong, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Mar 11, 2013 at 7:42 pm

They are not going to re-open somewhere else! After 28 years in that location and after 14 months of difficulty with the landlord, they are DONE! My family is crushed.

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Parkside
on Mar 12, 2013 at 8:58 am

I never have gone there, but a great alternative would be Chinese Szechuan at Valley and Hopyard. They have great fresh food there, I have been going for over 20 years, same owners. Lovely people.

Posted by Jerimiah, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2013 at 9:37 am

I have eaten three times at that Chef Hunan Wong at that location and I thought the food was mediocre, at best. There are a number of Chinese restaurants in Pleasanton that have better food and better service. And, the availability of parking is horrible.
Sometimes it seems that Pleasantonians put on thier blinders about "old" restaurants and eat there because of tradition. Another example is Dean's Cafe. People rave about the place, but the food is poor and it is a dump. Ditto for Bob's Burgers.

Posted by Claudette , a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2013 at 10:13 am

Wok Kee is behind the Fremont Bank on Bernal Avenue near 680. Great Chinese food flavors, good service, check it out: 6654 Koll Center Pkwy, Pleasanton. 925 931-9888

Always sorry to see yet another business unable to continue due to the sagging economy, no matter what economists say. It's not springing back fast enough for most. And Yes, I agree that building owners are not doing what they can to keep their spaces open for business. Preferring to have a space empty, rather than up and running "Especially in a Downtown" is a Black Eye for the Community. Personally I think there should be an city ordinance that fines building owners who don't fill their retail spaces within a 4-6 month period. This will help communities, businesses and DownTowns flourish.

Posted by Enjoyed Chef Wong, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Mar 12, 2013 at 5:01 pm

This is what makes me so angry. They are not closing due to the "sagging economy". They are closing because of problems with the landlord/property management. Empty buildings do not help the economy or the downtown area!

Posted by Joe and Donna, a resident of Pleasanton Village
on Mar 13, 2013 at 7:31 am

NO WAY!! Years and years ago we heard about 1st Hunan Chef Wong from another member of a T Ball team where to go for the best chop suey. She said it was the best chop suey ever and all the cops go there. She should know cause she is married to a cop and she was a dispatcher. Thank you Ann Radford - that was 26 years ago. As for Yolanda, we will call you tonight and urge you and the family business to relocate because your food is such a treat for our family. Your business is the best. We love you! The Kalowski Family

Posted by Dee, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2013 at 6:34 pm

I'm sorry to see the restaurant close because it is still another business that bit the dust because of our times and this world's inability to be kind and caring to each other. I too, am not or was not a fan of the place. I thought it was dirty and the food was just so so. The people were not friendly when I went there and once I saw one of the kitchen staff picking his nose. Did I want to eat there after seeing that? NO! But now another family has to find a way to survive. I'm sorry that they are closing but woulnd't eat there even if they stayed open.

Posted by Marlene & Tosh, a resident of Kottinger Ranch
on Mar 14, 2013 at 10:35 pm

We love your food and we hope you open another restaurant.
Your lunch specials were great and Tosh loved your tomato beef
Chow Mein pan fried noodles (just like he had as a boy in SF).
We will miss you!

Posted by Paul, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2013 at 7:33 pm

I have been going to this place for over 20 years. Boss Lady always makes me and my family welcomed and the food has always satisfied us. Weather its eat in or take out, the food quality has always been the same...the best. I am sure they know they have loyal customers and if they wanted to open somewhere else in Pleasanton, we will follow.