By Adam Thorp
A ribbon-cutting last Wednesday marked the return of Chinese food to Louisiana.
The straightforwardly named China restaurant sits at 4308 Georgia Street in the Raintree mall complex.
Owner Kirk Liu said after the ribbon-cutting that Louisiana was perfect spot for a new restaurant. Liu said he looks for towns around Louisiana’s size when planning expansions.
“The first thing is we are the only one. If [the town] has a Chinese restaurant, we won’t come here. The second thing is I like small town people. Much more relaxed, much nicer,” he said.
Liu said he’s been looking at Louisiana for a long time, and ended up picking it from four options. Too much rumination about a given spot’s prospects, Liu said, can be counter-productive.
“I don’t think too much. I’ve got 32 restaurants. If I think too much, I spend too much time thinking. After you’ve done it, after you’ve opened, you’ll know how the business is,” Liu added.
Liu’s company owns 32 Chinese restaurants across Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri. He bought his first restaurant in South Carolina in 2006. Liu said his company tries to emphasize service and cleanliness.
First in line after the restaurant opened were Helen Sisco and Donna Niemeyer, ordering on behalf of a group of people getting ready to play bingo at Trimble House.
Fans of Chinese cuisine and, they said, “the hungriest people in Louisiana”, they had anticipated the opening eagerly. Waiting for their food to be brought out, they said they were impressed by the restaurant’s decor and presentation.
“I came by before they opened and [the owner] let me look at it. I said, these floors are so clean, you could eat off it,” Niemeyer said.
“Its beautiful,” Sisco added.
Residents of Louisiana and its environs with a hankering for Chinese had once been satisfied just up the street from the new restaurant, where the sign for the “China House Buffet” can still be seen. Since it closed, they have had to go to Bowling Green or further afield.
“We’re excited to have one back. It’s been crummy having to go to Bowling Green just to get Chinese food for all these years,” Louisiana Economic Development Director Maggie Neff said.
The ribbon-cutting was hosted by the Louisiana Chamber of Commerce.
With the restaurant open and another tenant preparing to take a location in the Raintree Shopping Center, the city has just about filled the mall, Neff noted after the ribbon-cutting.
“If we’re going to look at that as a barometer for how things are going, I’d say things are looking up for the year,” Neff said.
As retail locations out toward the western end of town fill up, Neff added, the city can turn its efforts and resources to filling the city’s downtown, whose historic building pose a different set of challenges.
“There’s some more talk about things going in downtown. The problem with our downtown is the actual buildings. They’re just kind of old and dilapidated. Spaces like this are better, because they’re in better shape,” Neff said. “Once we get this side of town filled up, downtown will be the next project.”