“The owners of Orange Garden Chinese Restaurant are selling the 90-year-old business after auctioning its iconic neon ‘Chop Suey’ sign, hoping to find a buyer to preserve the eatery specializing in Cantonese fare.
“A relic of pre-war Chicago dating at least to the early 1930s, the Orange Garden sign was sold Saturday during the weekend’s Chicago Joe auction that sparked intense interest in local restaurant memorabilia. Auctioneer Randy Donley said the nearly 10-foot red sign sold for $17,000 to a suburban Highland Park woman who hopes to repurpose it for a different eatery.
“Preservation Chicago tweeted about the Orange Garden auction, sparking fears the North Center staple may be closing. Ben Ruan, who helps manage Orange Garden for his parents, told Block Club Tuesday the restaurant is still open but the family is ready to move on and put the business up for sale.
“Though the real estate listing invites prospective buyers to open a new restaurant in the space, Ruan said the family hopes to find someone who will keep operating Orange Garden and keep its half-dozen employees on board. The family does not own the Irving Park Road building.
“The Ruan family has owned Orange Garden since the 1980’s. The exact opening date isn’t clear, but co-owner Julie Ruan said the restaurant has existed in the same location since the early 1930’s — the bright neon sign shining as an instantly recognizable welcome mat and for North Center residents and visitors wanting homemade egg rolls and generous portions.
“‘If we close it down, and don’t find another person to continue it, it seems like a waste,’ Ruan said. ‘This place has been well known for many, many years. We have stories of people who had their first date here, proposals, people who had their anniversary here, people who had their child’s first birthday here. There’s a lot of history here.’
“Ruan said the sign had become more expensive and arduous to maintain with city zoning regulations and rising permit fees. According to city codes, any sign that extends over a public way requires a public way use permit and City Council approval. The large red sign with green neon — almost as old as the restaurant itself — nearly protrudes to the curb-cut.
“Ruan wanted to sell it before any changing city rules forced the family to take it down.
“‘Doing business in the city of Chicago is not easy,’ Ruan said. ‘Sooner or later, the city will change the requirement further. I don’t want to take it down then, and then go through that hassle.’
“‘The sign was getting older, it needed to be refurbished,’ Ruan said. ‘We wanted to make sure it went to someone who appreciated that.'” (Asimow, Block Club Chicago, 5/3/22)
Orange Garden Isn’t Closing — But It Is Up For Sale After Iconic Neon Sign Is Auctioned For $17K; The sign is off to the suburbs as the longtime owners look to pass the business to someone who will keep the restaurant open. “I don’t want them to flip it and make a McDonald’s,” the manager said., Noah Asimow, Block Club Chicago, 5/3/22
‘You never notice the little cool things that are around until it is too late,’ auction of beloved Chicago restaurants’ neon signs held in North Center, María Paula Mijares Torres, Chicago Tribune, 4/30/22