BLOOMINGTON — Faced with higher than expected remodeling costs, the owners of the Grand Cafe are looking to demolish the 41-year-old building that has housed the legendary downtown Chinese restaurant.
But the restaurant's name will live on, for now, at an East Bloomington location.
Twin City real estate agent Jimmy Mapugay and his wife, Kelly, partnered with Adrian Daluz to purchase the Chinese-American restaurant at 615 N. Main St. in May.
"I did not want the 96-year-old legacy of the Grand Cafe restaurant to go away. That's why I bought it, even though I don't have any restaurant experience," said Mapugay.
After closing the restaurant to make renovations, the trio opened a Grand Cafe express restaurant in the former Sun King restaurant at 2205 E. Oakland Ave.
The plan, Mapugay said at that time, was to give the cooks and staff of the original restaurant a place to work while the renovations were done.
But when the projected renovation costs at the original restaurant reached $600,000, Mapugay said he started considering other options, including demolishing the downtown site.
He is having required environmental testing done so demolition could begin in two or three months, Mapugay said.
“A lot of people thought it was a historic site. No, it's not. That building has only been around since 1976.”
Mapugay said he knew getting a loan to finance the renovations was going to be “an uphill battle” because most banks require at least a two-year history in the same trade.
“If someone comes to me and says, 'Here's money, go rebuild,' I'll do it,” he added. “But in the real world nobody will do that for you.”
He is also keeping open an option to sell the property.
"I am a Realtor by trade and everything is for sale at the right price,” said Mapugay.
To his surprise, lunch business at the East Oakland Avenue location, “is very robust,” said Mapugay, adding the express restaurant is able to capitalize on its close proximity to State Farm's corporate headquarters and other east-side businesses.
“We didn't have any idea how people would accept it. Business is excellent. There is less overhead,” he said. “The only thing we're missing here is the seating (which is limited to 50 people.) But that's being compensated by the carry-out and online orders and deliveries that we have.”
Mapugay and Daluz are Filipino, and they have added their native cuisine to Grand Cafe menu favorites.
The original Grand Cafe was purchased from Ike Chiu, a fourth-generation family member who had operated the restaurant.
The restaurant was started in 1921 in downtown Bloomington by Charlie B. Lum, a Hong Kong native who arrived in Chicago in 1918 and created a menu with Asian dishes that were modified to appeal to area residents. Over the years, the eatery has had several downtown locations.
“It would be a shame to let this 1921 icon go down without a fight,” said Mapugay. “But it looks like it's working out well and I'd like to keep the legacy going for the next 100 years.”