John Ko has worked his entire adult life at China Dynasty Arlington.

He started at the Upper Arlington restaurant at 18, working under former owner and current chef Lien C. Chen.

He met his wife, Elizabeth, Chen's daughter, through the business.

And after the couple bought the restaurant from Chen in 1998, they worked daily, trying to maintain customer service and quality and pushing to make the business successful.

So now, after 32 years in business at 1689 W. Lane Ave., China Dynasty will close. Ko has announced its last day of business will be May 12.

The restaurant in the Shops on Lane Avenue is not connected with the China Dynasty Chinese Restaurant on Dublin-Granville Road.

"We just want to take a break," the 50-year-old Ko said. "We've been working the last 15 to 20 years, working every day."

Ko said his primary reason for closing is because his lease is set to expire and he would have to renew for another five years.

Another factor is that Chen, the creator of China Dynasty's Citron, Hunan and Mandarin specialties, is ready to retire, he said.

"The head chef is about to turn 75 and doesn't want to do it anymore," Ko said.

After closing the store, Ko plans to take his first family vacation in about 20 years with Elizabeth and the couple's two children.

They'll go to Taiwan to see his parents.

After that, he's not sure what will happen. He may look for a new career, or he might pursue a new, smaller restaurant venture.

"The kids said to me, 'Do you know we've never had a Christmas?' " Ko said. "We were open Christmas day. We don't have Thanksgiving.

"We didn't have traditional holidays because we were always working."

Since Chen opened China Dynasty in 1987, the restaurant has endured roller-coaster economic times and constant change in both the food-service industry and the Upper Arlington landscape.

Ko said the most trying time was about 2010-11 because prolonged construction on Lane Avenue led many to bypass the street and thus, the restaurant.

The store also was the scene of Upper Arlington's first murder in eight years last June, when Jeffrey B. Harrison, of Columbus, allegedly stabbed 31-year-old Charles McCoy to death outside the restaurant. McCoy was a China Dynasty employee and police believe the stabbing occurred after he argued with Harrison's girlfriend, Tina Patrick, who also was an employee at the restaurant.

Ko said he was "sad it happened," but his plans to close the business "wasn't because of that."

As the final days of the restaurant wind down, Ko said he's happy that the pressure of running a small business soon will cease, but he's also sad that he'll leave behind his customers and he's anxious because he's not sure what the next chapter of his life will bring.

Through it all, he said, he essentially raised his family at the store, and he saw a number of families grow along with his.

The loyal support of customers is what kept China Dynasty open for more than three decades, he said, and he's thankful for the run the business has had.

"We'd like to thank our customers for the continued support," Ko said. "We had good times and hard times. I'd like to thank everybody, thank the neighborhood for all of the support."

nellis@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNate