Upper Arlington News

China Dynasty hopes for 25 more years in UA

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Joshua A. Bickel/ThisWeekNEWS
China Dynasty owner John Ko, seen here at the restaurant May 13, says he is thankful for the loyal customers who have made it possible for the Upper Arlington establishment to celebrate its 25th anniversary this year.

An Upper Arlington favorite for Chinese fare recently celebrated 25 years of business in the community, and its owner hopes it will still be in town for its golden anniversary.

After coming to Columbus to attend Ohio State University, Taiwan native Jon Ko started working at China Dynasty -- now known as China Dynasty Upper Arlington -- in 1987.

That was the first year of operation for the business, and while it's endured roller-coaster economic times and a retrofit of the Shops on Lane Avenue that left the restaurant situated on the backside of the center, China Dynasty remains standing 25 years later.

Ko purchased the restaurant at 1689 W. Lane Ave. 15 years ago. That was about three years after he married his wife, Elizabeth, who is the daughter of China Dynasty's original owner and its only head cook, Lien C. Chen.

The ownership transition brought few changes to the business, which is most evident by the fact Chen still prepares China Dynasty's Citron, Hunan and Mandarin specialties.

"I kind of married into the restaurant when I married a woman," Ko said. "It's been good, but it's been hard work."

In addition to dedication, Ko said China Dynasty sets itself apart, in part, because it's not strictly a buffet-style restaurant and its dishes are prepared when customers order them, as opposed to serving premade meals.

He also gives a fair amount of credit to a loyal customer base.

Those customers, Ko said, kept coming through the renovation of the Shops on Lane in 2003, and they've helped spread the word about the business.

"We've seen, like, two or three generations of families and people continue to try to find us," he said. "I'm thankful for those loyal customers.

"Right now, I'm trying to find new ones."

Over the years, China Dynasty opened a "sister" location at 1930 E. Dublin-Granville Road in Columbus, and Ko currently is contemplating a relocation of his Upper Arlington store.

Loyalists need not fret, however, as any move China Dynasty Upper Arlington might make isn't expected before next year, and Ko isn't looking to go far.

"We'd still like to stay along Lane Avenue, but we're thinking about going to the front of the street to try to get more exposure," the 44-year-old Ko said. "We like Upper Arlington. There are nice people here.

"Hopefully, I could work another 25 years. I don't mind working another 25 years."