Shiou Yun Wang, owner of Englewood’s Twin Dragon, right, welcomes Jerry Chang, Taiwanese director general, to her 40th anniversary party last week. Wang, an immigrant whose family fled China and North Korea, bought the restaurant in 1977 with virtually nothing to her name after the previous owner offered to back her loan.
BY PETER JONES
Times have changed on the local restaurant scene since a 29-year-old Shiou Yun Wang took over the budding Twin Dragon in 1977.
“My mother, I believe, was the first person with crab-cheese wontons in the state of Colorado,” her son Joe Jefferson told a room of invited guests on Aug. 29. “In the early ‘80s, Chinese food was as exotic as it got in the Denver metro area. … My mom used to have a line out the door in the ‘80s because there was no such thing as sushi or Thai food.”
Flash forward 40 years: Last week marked the ruby anniversary of an Englewood institution and a destination restaurant that has entertained rock stars—both literally and figuratively.
“You’re a rock star,” Randy Penn told the longtime restaurateur. “I hate to say it, but as someone who doesn’t eat chicken, she handles me really well.”
Penn, a former mayor and the director of the Greater Englewood Chamber of Commerce, was among the local civic and business leaders who attended last week’s anniversary party, along with Jerry Chang, Denver’s Taiwanese director general.
Jefferson, Englewood’s current mayor, describes his immigrant mother’s story as “the American dream on South Broadway.”
Wang was born in present-day North Korea. Her father had fled communist China during World War II before political turmoil sent the family packing up everything and bolting again less than a decade later.
“During the outbreak of the Korean War, my family needed to flee south of the 38th parallel and my grandfather and my family left everything behind, including their family farm,” Jefferson said. “My mother was an infant and had to be carried in the middle of the night.”
Brian Hayashi shares a laugh with Web.com’s Cindy Novak and Frame de Art’s Brian Hart at the 40th anniversary party.
Years later, after earning degrees in Taiwan and Japan, Wang came to the United States to continue her studies and landed a part-time job, working nights and weekends, at a new, small Chinese restaurant in Englewood called the Twin Dragon. The young immigrant made an immediate impression on the proprietor, who quickly saw Wang as his heir apparent.
“The owner found out I did have this capability to do it, to make the Twin Dragon a little more successful,” she recalled. “That’s when he asked me to buy it. I said, ‘Are you kidding me? I don’t have a penny or a dime.’”
The owner believed in young Shiou so much that he personally backed her bank loan to make it happen.
Before long, the soon-married Mrs. Jefferson had moved the restaurant across the street to a new location, 3021 S. Broadway, eventually buying and expanding the dragon-adorned building.
At the time, Wang says there were little more than five Chinese restaurants in the metro area. Today, just this stretch of Broadway has four of them, not to mention the Japanese and Vietnamese eateries that have populated it in the decades since.
Wang attributes her own success to several factors.
“Working hard, quality, service, everything put together,” she said, noting her only child, Joe, paid his dues on the kitchen and wait staff.
“I think he got his people skills from the restaurant,” the mother said of the attorney, mayor and now candidate for municipal judge.
As the 40th anniversary party also marked the matriarch’s 69th birthday with a cake far richer than a fortune cookie, Wang said she has no immediate plans to retire.
“I love this business. I love the people,” she said.
Belly up. Family friend Joy Hoffman joins Englewood Mayor Joe Jefferson at the Twin Dragon bar. Jefferson’s mother, Shiou, hosted the restaurant’s 40th anniversary party on Aug. 29.
2017 All Rights Reserved. Villager Publishing |