The sign in the window at Harry Louie's King Joy Cafe, 264 S. Main, says it all: "Closing March 31. All Restaurant Equipment for Sale."
Near the same front window are piles of dishes Louie is selling as he closes a 45-year restaurant business that has been one of Salt Lake City's landmarks on Main Street."I call myself successful," a smiling Louie said, contemplating the time he will be able to spend traveling to see his eight children and five grandchildren.
King Joy Cafe has been at the 264 S. Main location for 26 years and prior to that was located in the Wilson Hotel on the south side of Second South between Main and State streets for 19 years.
The 69-year-old Louie has been contemplating retirement, but his mind was made up a little early by a fire inspector who said new regulations require that places of habitation capable of handling 100 people must have three exits.
King Joy Cafe is a long narrow restaurant with only two exits, the front and back doors, so the only way to have a third exit is to go sideways into the next building, not a viable alternative. So Louie, who at one time was tempted to purchase the building where his restaurant is located, is glad he only leased it.
After the equipment is sold, Louie will turn the building back to the owner, Larry Dahle, who is looking for a new tenant.
After 45 years in the two locations, Louie said the south part of the Salt Lake business district isn't what is used to be, especially now that Block 57 across the street from the restaurant is undergoing so many changes. He also said the Crossroads Plaza and ZCMI Center have had an affect on the south end of town.
He remembers fondly the times when the south part of town had plenty of traffic from The Paris Co., Keith O'Brien and Auerbach's department stores on 300 South and the so-called dime stores (Kress, Woolworth and W.T. Grant Co.) on Main Street.
Serving Chinese-American food, King Joy Cafe has been a popular spot for the lunch and dinner crowd and has hosted University of Utah athletes, office workers, judges and attorneys. During the fall football practice at the U., the football players eat twice at Louie's place on Sunday.
He has a dear spot in his heart for the U., since all eight of his children obtained degrees there.
The Ogden native worked as a waiter at the old China Tea Garden Cafe, and in 1947 his father purchased the King Joy in the Wilson Hotel. Louie has been with the cafe ever since.