ENVIRONMENT


FOUR RESTAURANTS AND COUNTING
Panda Garden in Bettendorf is one of four - and soon to be five

- Chinese restaurants in the Quad-Cities owned by the extended Chen family.

Family builds its niche in Quad-City dining

  

By Doug Schorpp  

dachorpp@acitmes.com


  Eric Chen Says it is all in the taste.
 
  "It's that New York style, the tasting. It is a little bit different. The sauce is different from what you get around here." said Chen, part of an extended Quad-City family that is quickly making a mark on the Chinese restaurant scene.

  Eric Chen opened panda Garden at 3372 Middle Road, Bettendorf in August.

 

  His cousin, Jessie Chen, opened Great Wall at 1432 W. Locust St., Davenport, in November.

 

  His Sister, Angel Chen, opened New China restaurant at 503 W. 10th Ave., Milan, in December.

 

  An uncle, Tian Lin, Opened a restaurant also named New China in January at 1225 S. Oakwood Ave., Geneseo, Ill.

  And in a couple of months, the family plans to open its fifth Quad-City restaurant. Jessie Chen Said her sister and brother-in-law, Amy and Young Zheng, will operate the Great Wall at 1622 38th St., Rock Island. It is sched-uled to open after renovations are completed by Jessie's father, Deng Chen.

  Jessie's brother and sister-in-law, Ivan and Michelle Chen, now work at Jessie's restaurant. But they plan to open the next Daven-port location once a suitable site is found, Jessie salad.

  So far, they all say business has been good.

  "Very busy," Angel Chen Said of her eatery.

  It is a close-knit family group. So close, Jessie says, that she calls her cousins, like Eric, brothers and sisters. "That is our culture in China," she said.

  She said their story began about 15 years ago when Deng Chen came to the United States and eventually opened a Chinese restaurant in New York City. A few years later, Eric, who was 14 at the time, came to help his uncle and work at the restaurant. Then, In 2001, Jessie moved to New York and also began working there.

  Within a few years, Jessie said members of her extended family were operating restaurants in New York, New Jersey, Georgia, Kansas, West Virginia and Ohio.

  Then, according to Jessie and Eric, rather than having the family spread out across the country, they decided to relocate to the Quad-Cities.

  "My auntie(who used to live in the Quad-Cities), told us to come here," Eric said. "She said the Quad-Cities would be good for us to open a restaurant."

  They work together as a family unit and consult each other about future plans, But individuals or couples actually own and operate their own places. Eric and Jessie said at some point, they will discuss the possibility of incorporating as one company. For now, their system works fine for them.

  Jessie said because of their culture, they never go to banks to borrow funds to open the restaurants. Instead, they rely on each other to help get each one started.

  "We all worked in Bettendorf in the beginning," Eric said, "We Struggle to help each other...We don't believe in borrowing. It is Chinese tradition."

  Jess said because of their culture, they never go to banks to borrow funds to open the restaurants. Instead, they rely on each other to help get each one started.

  "We all worked in Bettendorf in the beginning," Eric said, "We struggle to help each other ... We don't believe in borrowing. It is Chinese tradition."

  Jessie said with proceeds from the sale of restaurants in other states, they have the money needed to open these new places.

  Eventually, they hope to have up to 10 restaurants in the Quad-Cities.