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April 2009
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If you have comments or would like to submit an article to future newsletters, contact Alpa Vaghani at avaghani@central.uh.edu by the 20th of each month.
 

                                                                                                               

Priscella Yang: The Smile Behind Chinese Star

Chinese Star restaurant at the University of Houston has had a quite valiant history, as the family-run business has grown and survived despite the changing landscape of the campus – much to the gratitude and joy of owner Priscella Yang.

Upon Priscella Yang’s arrival in the United States from Taiwan, she knew no English, and worked at McDonald’s in an effort to learn – washing dishes and cleaning the bathrooms.

After the birth of her first daughter, Priscella explained, through tears, the difficulties she faced as her husband developed a kidney stone that required him to return to Taiwan for surgery, while she stayed with their new baby.

Earning sufficient money was difficult, as Priscella and her husband struggled to maintain a business with a limited knowledge of English and even hostility from the community. Mrs. Yang described the gun robbery that took place at her and her husband’s to-go restaurant that forced them to close down out of fear.

Priscella and her husband travelled back and forth from her brother’s restaurant in Corpus Christi and Houston, and moved to Houston for the delivery of their second daughter. They looked for a restaurant to open in Houston, and heard about Chinese Star.

After discovering how to submit a financial statement for the restaurant application with help from her family, Chinese Star was opened July 30, 1990, with only Priscella and her husband running the restaurant. Business was difficult, as Priscella remembers making only fifty dollars and seventeen cents the first day.

Business picked up after the first year, but Chinese Star faced another challenge 18 years later, when a new parking garage needed to be built. Priscella was faced with the decision to relocate or close down her business.

A loyal customer heard about her situation and told her he wanted to help her. He organized a student petition to keep Chinese Star on campus, and within two weeks, they had over 3,000 signatures. The University took notice of the student support, and through a series of circumstances, Chinese Star was able to stay in business, moving to the building that was previously a Pizza Hut.

Priscella mentioned her pride at only having raised prices three times by about 30 cents in the 20 years they have been in business – going from a $3.95 special to a $4.95 special. She stressed that she did not want to raise her prices very much, as UH had been so kind to her.

“When I came to US, there was a lot of things I didn’t know. But a lot of people helped me. When you fall down, you want to stand up, it’s very hard. But I’m lucky. I’m very lucky that people helped me, ” said Priscella.

Mrs. Yang also emphasized her daughter’s insistence that she thank the University of Houston for helping her to go to school. “When we opened, she just wanted to go to first grade. Now, the first has already finished college for 6 years. The second one got her Masters this December. So it’s very good.”

Mrs. Yang is very thankful to have had the opportunity to continue working at UH running her restaurant. “I really like it here because every day I talk to young people and I feel like I’m still young!” Priscella said, laughing.

Priscella hopes to stay at the University of Houston as long as she is able, serving the campus community with delicious food and a warm smile.

For more information about food service at the University of Houston, visit www.uh.edu/auxiliaryservices/dining.