Restaurant cooking again following fire

Jin Zheng, owner of Golden Wok in Prospect, stands in the restaurant last week. Golden Wok reopened at a new location this month more than a year after a fire destroyed the building where the restaurant was previously located on Waterbury Road. –LUKE MARSHALL

PROSPECT — After being closed for more than a year, Golden Wok reopened this month to a hungry and happy welcome.

The Chinese restaurant operated at 14 Waterbury Road for nearly 10 years before the building, which also housed MTM Masonry and Chimney, was damaged beyond repair due to a fire in September of 2015. State police charged Matthew Garguilo, of Enfield, and Willow Martin, of Naugatuck, with intentionally setting the fire.

While police caught their suspects, the lives of Jin and Jessica Zheng, who own Golden Wok, were turned upside down.

“We lost everything,” Jin Zheng said.

MTM Masonry and Chimney has since reopened at 87 Waterbury Road. On Dec. 6, the Zhengs officially reopened the doors to Golden Wok down the road at 64 Waterbury Road, and welcomed customers again.

The reopening drew a crowd to say the least.

“The people had to wait for two hours. It was unbelievable,” Jin Zheng said. “It was so, so busy. We even had to unplug the phone. Some customers have my cell phone number. They texted me and I didn’t even have time to respond.”

Jin Zheng said the entire first week they were open people continuously came into the restaurant. At times they were so busy they ran out of popular foods, such as crab rangoons, he said.

“All the people were here. I didn’t even dare look. The whole dining room was packed,” Jin Zheng said. “I am so excited and so happy that so many customers support us, but on the other hand I feel so bad they had to wait for two hours.”

Mayor Robert Chatfield was among those glad to see the restaurant open for business once again.

“The day after he made up his mind to reopen his restaurant he walked into my office and told me. I didn’t shake his hand, I gave him a hug and said, ‘Welcome back,’” Chatfield said. “They were truly missed.”

Jin Zheng said the feeling was mutual. After the restaurant closed, people would ask him when he was reopening.

“We happen to meet them and they would say, ‘When are you coming back? We miss you,’” he said. “That really meant something.”

Getting back up and running was a long road for the Zhengs.

Buildings that are ideal for restaurants are hard to come by in town, Jin Zheng said.

“We’ve been looking around in the town. But in Prospect they don’t have a city sewer. It is very hard,” he said. “We knew of a few places available but they have septic.”

Jin Zheng said in April Mark Guastaferri, one of the principals of American General Investors, reached out to him to let him know a building was going to be available soon.

“I didn’t even think about it. I said I’ll take it,” Jin Zheng said.

The building where Golden Wok is now used to be a Bank of America branch and most recently served as the headquarters of Millennium Computer Solutions.

Although the property has a septic tank, Jin Zheng said Guastaferri told him he would install one that would be large enough to handle a restaurant.

In August renovations on the building began. Just over four months later the Zhengs were back in business.

“I’m thankful that so many people and so many customers supported us,” Jin Zheng said. “I’m very happy. I’m grateful for them supporting us. I’m glad to come back to the town to start the new business and serve the community.”