Here’s a venture that didn’t get mentioned in last week’s discussion of Richmond’s oldest businesses: Joy Garden, est. 1957 at 2918 W. Broad St. Now, amidst Scott’s Addition’s boom in breweries and apartments, the Chinese eatery’s owners are retiring and closing the restaurant.
Joy Garden will serve its last meal July 31 or at the end of this year, depending on whether owners Mark and Bang Sin can hire more help at the restaurant.
“If I can find someone to work, I will keep it open (until the end of this year),” Mark Sin, 69, said.
Sin said he is closing because he can’t afford to pay rent that appears to be rising with the popularity of Scott’s Addition. Business has declined in the past year as he has prepared to retire. Sin said having a service bar only, as opposed to an open bar, has hindered business.
“The area is hot,” Sin said, adding he at one point had the option to buy Joy Garden’s building from his previous landlord. “It’s a little harder to compete. All my regular customers are getting older. Younger customers don’t like this kind of food.”
Joy Garden’s building was purchased in 2015 amidst a time of heightened redevelopment in Scott’s Addition. Restaurants and breweries lined with reclaimed-style wood, touting their artisanal bonafides have moved in alongside the neighborhood’s mechanics and machine shops.
The ownership group that took over Joy Garden’s 4,400-square-foot building last year for $640,000 includes Birck Turnbull of Thalhimer | Cushman & Wakefield and Charles Bice of KB Building Service. It’s the same development team behind the Gather building next door to Joy Garden.
Turnbull, who handles leasing for the Joy Garden property, said future plans call for improving the building’s roof, HVAC system and electrical systems.
“We think it’s a real attractive opportunity for restaurant users,” Turnbull said. “We hope to attract a tenant who will make some investment in the interior and the kitchen.”
Turnbull said the popularity of the area along West Broad Street west of the Boulevard has come full circle since the days it used to be considered the West End and the outskirts of downtown.
“It’s cyclical,” Turnbull said. “Over time that part of West Broad Street fell out of favor as things moved west, and now there is a resurgence.”
Sin said Joy Garden has been open since 1957 when Tommy Chin opened it at its current location. He recalled Chin hosting Chinese New Year’s parties attended by Virginia and Richmond politicians.
In 1982, Sin and three other partners bought the business from Chin. They added more Hunan and Sichuan dishes to Joy Garden’s largely Cantonese menu, and more than doubled the restaurant’s staff. A few years later Sin bought out his partners and he and his wife have run Joy Garden since. The pair had a West End location at 9109 Quioccasin Road from 1993 to 2005.
Joy Garden has customers who had their first dates at the restaurant and went on to bring their grandkids as the years passed. Sin recalled packed nights with more than 100 guests seated and another 70 out the door. Now, Sin has enlisted an auction company to sell off Joy Garden’s fixtures and equipment.
“I got a little emotional,” Sin said of the decision to close the West Broad Street location. “I’m going to miss my good customers.”
When he retires Sin hopes to work on his home in Hanover, volunteer and travel to Europe.
“I’ve never been one to take it easy,” he said. “I don’t think I can sit down and not do anything.”