Even though this chapter of her life is coming to an end, Judy Wong has found the silver lining.
The Colwood restaurateur tells Victoria Buzz that her eatery, Jasmine Restaurant—what she calls her biggest success—will be closing for good at the end of March.
“It’s a sad ending for me because I’ve been in the restaurant business for 52 years. It’s hard to let go,” Wong said.
Located at 1752 Island Highway, the Jasmine has made this spot its home for around 23 years now. Before that, it operated within Mayfair Mall.
“So it’s a 35- or 36-year-old restaurant,” Wong said.
“We serve comfort food with really good ingredients, and it’s all cooked with heart, not with processed food.”
With ten or so employees, Wong finds her customers love the service, noting it’s the “human side” of the business that people will likely miss most.
“It’s a very, very friendly restaurant. We treat them like friends and family, and they treat us the same way,” she explains.
“That’s the essence of the Jasmine Restaurant.”
According to Wong, a Canadian family bought the restaurant’s property with plans to build an 80-unit apartment building.
It’s something she finds is “much needed.”
“It’s all rentals, which really suits the needs of the Colwood people right now. There will be a few commercial spaces below the condominium building,” Wong said.
Today, she’s thinking back over a decade ago when developers first came knocking on her door.
“The property was supposed to be sold to the Courthouse, but then a friend of mine, Wilson Lai, just happened to come by,” Wong said.
When he saw what Wong would have to leave behind, she says he actually paid full price for the property, giving her “another 10 or 15 years of restaurant life.”
However, Lai passed away back in 2018, but his family lived up to his dying wish—that the Jasmine property be sold and the funds donated to charity.
In fact, late last year, the Victoria Hospitals Foundation received one of the most significant donations in its history on behalf of the Wilson S.C. Lai Trust—a whopping $5 million.
“I’m really happy that the restaurant ended in this manner,” Wong said.
“There’s going to be a rental housing project for a lot of people in need of rentals, and a few million was used for charity. That is the silver lining of the whole story.”
What’s next for Wong? She’s not too sure.
“You know, I’m 71-years-old, so it’s time. But I could work till I’m 100,” Wong exclaimed.
“If you see me running around the restaurant, you would never guess my age. I just love what I do; I really love what I do.”
“Somebody suggested that I should open a food truck. Of course, it was just a suggestion,” Wong added.