This story brought to you for free by:

New year, new owners: DeLand’s iconic Chinese restaurant plans mid-January reopening

Hibachi and sushi dishes could join longtime favorites at Won Lee  BEACON PHOTOS/RYAN ROUGEUX

Hibachi and sushi dishes could join longtime favorites at Won Lee BEACON PHOTOS/RYAN ROUGEUX

AN ERA COMES TO AN END — Seamus Poon takes a moment in front of the Won Lee dining room before handing over ownership of the DeLand restaurant to Trilanda Group Inc. Poon wants to thank everyone in DeLand for four decades of business success. When asked what he will miss the most, he replied, "I'm going to miss the people the most: the faces, smiles, and friends that came to Won Lee and enjoyed all the hard work and delicious food we strived to deliver."

AN ERA COMES TO AN END — Seamus Poon takes a moment in front of the Won Lee dining room before handing over ownership of the DeLand restaurant to Trilanda Group Inc. Poon wants to thank everyone in DeLand for four decades of business success. When asked what he will miss the most, he replied, "I'm going to miss the people the most: the faces, smiles, and friends that came to Won Lee and enjoyed all the hard work and delicious food we strived to deliver."

​​​​​​​WON-LEE STEAK — I ordered one of the most popular entrees at Won Lee: tender steak marinated in secret Chinese spice, drizzled with secret spice sauce on a bed of sauteed onions. "The new owners plan to keep the most popular dishes for the Won Lee patrons," Seamus Poon said.

WON-LEE STEAK — I ordered one of the most popular entrees at Won Lee: tender steak marinated in secret Chinese spice, drizzled with secret spice sauce on a bed of sauteed onions. "The new owners plan to keep the most popular dishes for the Won Lee patrons," Seamus Poon said.

HAVE A 'RICE' RETIREMENT, SEAMUS POON — Often, the sign outside Won Lee in DeLand displayed this humorous turn on the saying "Have a nice day."

HAVE A 'RICE' RETIREMENT, SEAMUS POON — Often, the sign outside Won Lee in DeLand displayed this humorous turn on the saying "Have a nice day."

​​​​​​​WON LEE LOYALTY — This is my server, Donna Weber, who has been serving tables at Won Lee since it first opened in 1978. "I met Seamus and Mr. Lee in the parking lot before they opened, needed a job, got hired, and have been here ever since," Weber said. She is hoping the transition to new ownership doesn't keep the restaurant closed too long.

WON LEE LOYALTY — This is my server, Donna Weber, who has been serving tables at Won Lee since it first opened in 1978. "I met Seamus and Mr. Lee in the parking lot before they opened, needed a job, got hired, and have been here ever since," Weber said. She is hoping the transition to new ownership doesn't keep the restaurant closed too long.

Change is coming to DeLand’s iconic Chinese restaurant, but not quickly.

On New Year’s Eve, owner Seamus Poon turned over Won Lee at 1329 N. Woodland Blvd. to new owners, Jerry Li and his wife, Ling Zhang, of Trilanda Group Inc.

Li said he will close Won Lee until mid-January, then reopen the restaurant, keeping things the same at first until he and his wife have a chance to get to know the customers and learn what they might enjoy.

“Customer first,” said Li, who has a long history in the restaurant business, including managing restaurants in New York City.

The new owners hope to add sushi and a hibachi area, but not right away.

After almost 40 years of serving authentic Chinese food, Won Lee has earned a spot in DeLand’s history. Opening on Valentine’s Day 1978, Won Lee took over the building formerly occupied by Jack Perkins’ Boulevard Restaurant.

Poon is a major reason for Won Lee’s success.

Born in Hong Kong, he earned a degree in architecture, which he practiced in Hong Kong for five years. Poon’s given name was actually Chi-on, but he changed it to Seamus, which was easier for his British architecture clients to identify with.

Work brought Poon to New York, but he moved to DeLand in 1977 after being approached by William Lee, the president of Won Lee Corp. and a native of mainland China. Lee asked Poon to be a partner in his restaurant, and made him the treasurer.

Poon had no culinary experience besides learning to cook from his mother, but food was one of his favorite passions. He took on the venture and succeeded in a big way.

Poon said the restaurant will still be called Won Lee under the new owners. Customers can expect local favorites such as Won-Lee Steak, Butterfly Shrimp, General Tso’s Chicken, Metropolitan Pork and Seafood Delight to stay on the menu.

Li and Zhang planned to meet with Won Lee’s employees Thursday, Jan. 4, to discuss the coming changes and decide who will stay on the staff.

The Beacon asked Poon why he was leaving the business, and he gave a kind smile and explained that his children weren’t interested in taking over.

“The children chose different careers, and, truthfully, I’m getting old, and the wear and tear is catching up with me,” he said.

In retirement, he plans to spend as much time as he can with family. He also wants to tour Asia and experience all of it.

“Thank you so much to the people that supported us for almost 40 years; that’s four generations of families. I’ll miss the people the most, and hope they come in to say goodbye before I’m gone,” Poon said a few days before turning over the keys.

— Ryan Rougeux, info@beacononlinenews.com

Rate this article: 
Average: 4.9 (13 votes)