Eatery moves out of curling club

·3 min read

THUNDER BAY, ONT. — It was 1973 when Ling and May Lee opened Ling Lee’s Chinese Cuisine in the Port Arthur Curling Club.

And nearly 50 years later, their daugher Norina Karschti, is embarking on a new chapter with the restaurant, beginning with a relocation.

In 2011, when Ling passed away, Karschti began work on opening Ling Lee’s Fresh Fruit Bouquets (edible arrangements), at their Cumberland Street location just down the street from the curling club on Egan Street.

“I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with this place then,” she said.

“The building is here and I had the restaurant in the curling club. We had both running at the same time, and then COVID hit. COVID was a big eye opener for me. I went from 120 hours a week to 25 hours a week. So it was life changing for me, but all for the good.”

Karschti said through the pandemic, curling was cancelled and her sales were way down.

“But we were fine. Takeout was great. We have some loyal super customers that kept ordering takeout and kept coming, which was great,” she said.

When Karschti approached the board of directors of the curling club to ask for rent and utility relief, they turned her down.

“This was after 47 years. I didn’t think that was too much to ask for but they couldn’t do it,” she said.

“Understandably they were struggling at the time also.”

She said the turning point for her was when she found out that other restaurants in curling clubs, most notably the Fort William Curling Club, received rent relief and breaks on utilities because the curling club had already received rebates for their utilities, which she claims the Port Arthur Club had also received.

Karschti said that changed her whole view on the relationship between the restaurant and the curling club.

Karschti called all of the board members “amazing” and said they have always been good to work with.

But she thought it was time to go.

“So I broke my lease and here we are,” she said.

“I think it’s a good thing. I was sad to go, but I’m super excited for what’s going on. We’re just down the street. It’s literally seconds away and our super loyal customers can’t wait to come here.”

Directing movers with a hand truck of stacked boxes of wontons to the food storage area, Karschti oversaw the entire move ensuring it went smoothly. Storefront signage has been installed, and the restaurant was to open Thursday for takeout and delivery for now.

A new area has been retrofitted for the fruit shop that will commence operation in time for Mother’s Day. The dining room is set with tables, chairs and a warm oriental decor but will remain closed for in-house dining until Karschti is comfortable with COVID-19 pandemic protocols.

“We’re getting the dining area set up but we’re going to wait and see what COVID does and how that plays out. I’m going to decide whether I want to do (in-house) dining because I know we’ve had lots of customers asking for it,” she said.

Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal

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