By Carlie Kollath Wells/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Sun-Kai, Tupelo’s first Chinese restaurant, is closing next month.
The business’ last day is Dec. 22, ending a run of 38 years.
“We’re all burnt out on it,” said co-owner Kim To. “I’ve been doing this since I was 8.”
To’s grandparents opened the restaurant in 1974 on East Main Street. The bright red building has drawn a loyal clientele ever since it introduced Chinese food to Tupelo residents.
Sun-Kai’s most popular entrees are pon pon chicken, chicken fried rice, sweet and sour chicken, the Double Happy and steaks.
To and her mom, Janet, own the restaurant. Kim To and her uncle, Jackson, do the cooking.
Friday morning, they were busy prepping for lunch. To said it takes her three hours every day to make the crab ragoon appetizers by hand.
It’s not something she is going to miss after the restaurant closes.
“Before my dad passed away, I’d always wanted to work in hotels,” she said.
She’s in the process of applying for jobs in Nashville.
The rest of the family also is looking at new opportunities. To’s sister, Amanda, wants to start a bakery business.
Jackson To isn’t sure what he wants to do, but he’s looking outside the restaurant industry.
Janet To has rental property to keep her busy.
Kim To’s 21-year-old brother, Bryan, is staying in the restaurant world. He currently is a manager at Fairpark Grill. To said she thinks her brother may decide in a couple of years to reopen Sun-Kai.
The restaurant is maintaining its regular hours until it closes. It’s open for lunch Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dinner is served Tuesday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The To family is planning a farewell party Dec. 22 at the restaurant. The details aren’t set yet, but Kim To hopes it will be a special time for her customers.
“We’ll have that be the only day Sun-Kai will have a buffet,” she said.