If you didn't know anything about the old Jack Yee property, you’d think Samuel Stiele and Ed Stiele got a deal.
They paid $95,000, the minimum bid the county set. It had a walk-in cooler, a 988-pound rice cooker and a spacious kitchen.
Unfortunately, the cooler is out of date and must be taken out, the rice cooker had to be removed and the floor of that spacious kitchen was covered in about three-quarters of an inch of grease. Samuel Stiele estimated the place was so dirty they went through about 25 pairs of gloves in their initial period working on the building.
“If this business wasn’t in Hopkins, we wouldn’t have done this,” he said.
The Stieles—father and son—don’t just have money tied up in the 1016 Mainstreet site. They’re investing enormous amounts of sweat and muscle power into renovating one of Hopkins’ most troubled properties.
The city ordered Jack Yee to close in August 2009 because of health and sanitation violations—then revoked the restaurant’s license in November 2009 when it continued to do business anyway. A month later, following a district court injunction, the city changed the locks and forced the owner to remove perishables—closing Jack Yee for good.
The years of neglect have been hard on the building. The Stieles had to keep fans running to clear the basement of foul smells. There were illegal grease traps. The building hadn’t been winterized properly. Some of the plumbing was still full and had to be cleaned out.
“I gagged a couple times, and I hardly ever gag,” Samuel Stiele said.
Yet the Stieles also saw the promise hidden beneath the grease and grime. They found marble stairs underneath carpet the previous owners had installed. A window concealed behind dry wall offered a chance to brighten up the space. Metal beams attested to the building’s underlying strength.
“The structure is real good. They built it right,” Ed Stiele said.
The Stieles are just as anchored in the community. Ed Stiele is best known as the owner of . The two have other buildings in town. The elder Stiele even remembers Jack Yee when it was a restaurant worth visiting.
“In the ’80s, this was the best chow mein in town,” he recalled.
The Stieles plan to strip the place down to a vanilla shell, clean it up and make it showable. Although other projects have kept them from working on it full time, they expect to spray and primer it by September and then sign with an agent.
The pair have already had a chance to enjoy some of the fruits of their labor. During the Raspberry Festival parade, the Stieles turned on the building’s air conditioning and watched the floats pass by in comfort.
The Jack Yee property may have created a lot of work for the Stieles. But looking back, they have no doubt that it’s been worth it.
“I’d do it again in a heartbeat,” Samuel Stiele said.
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