Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | Kwok Kwong Mui

Kwok Kwong Mui, co-owner of the Golden Phoenix

SEMINOLE — The Golden Phoenix endured in the heart of Treasure Island for more than 30 years.

Yet Kwok Kwong Mui, who co-founded the restaurant with two cousins in 1965, always regarded the business as a means, not an end.

He wanted his children to do better.

To make those things possible, Mr. Mui manned a wok as head chef — 12 hours a day, six days a week.

"He would be all hot and sweaty from kitchen work," said Linda Mui Wright, a daughter. "He would say, 'You all don't want to be like this. Make sure you study so you can have a 9-to-5 job.'"

Out of his $30-a-week initial wages, Mr. Mui later told his family, he kept just $5 for his daily needs. The rest he saved for the restaurant he dreamed of buying or sent to family members in Canton, China.

Mr. Mui died Jan. 20, surrounded by his family, six days after suffering a stroke. He was 76.

The eldest son of a high-ranking military officer whose side lost to the Communists in the Chinese civil war, Mr. Mui left mainland China for Hong Kong, then moved to Colombia and finally arrived in Florida in 1959.

He worked at Sarasota's Golden Buddha restaurant owned by an uncle, Robert Moy.

Mr. Mui met his future wife, Jan Yee, who was also born in Canton, when the two were set up on a blind date by his aunt and her mother. They married in 1966.

Mr. Mui and a brother-in-law opened another restaurant in Daytona Beach while Jan Mui managed several curio shops in the Tampa Bay area. She then opened the Mandarin Arts gift shop at Countryside Mall in Clearwater. The couple taught their four children to embrace both their American citizenship and Chinese heritage.

"My dad would call us 'Juke Sen,' (which means) American-born Chinese,' " said Wright.

Mr. Mui deferred most child rearing to his wife, whose parenting style differed from those of strict Chinese mothers hailed in Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, a current bestseller.

"My mom was like, 'They were born here. They are Americans,' " said James Mui, Mr. Mui's son. "I'm not sure why they did it that way, but I'm sure glad they did. It gave us a little bit of life."

The Mui children all graduated from the University of South Florida.

The Golden Phoenix closed in 1999, after Mr. Mui and his partners could not reach agreement on rent prices with new property owners.

His wife died in 2004, at age 60.

"When we called our parents, he would greet us but he handed the phone over to my mom," said Lilly Mui Dang, a daughter.

"After she passed, there was nobody to hand the phone over to. So we got to know our dad differently, and we bonded with him as adults."

Soon, his children were talking to Mr. Mui all the time — about the stock market, news from China or the latest deals at Publix. He marveled over his nine grandchildren and never missed a birthday party. The extended family continued a tradition of taking cruises together.

Last week, mourners filled the Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home chapel and bowed three times before Mr. Mui's casket.

Some told his children of their father's quiet generosity.

Mr. Mui worked hard to at improve the standard of living in Canton. As chairman of the Mui Chinese Association for the southeastern United States, he raised money that built roads, a school and a nursing home.

"They told us a lot of things we did not even know, things my dad never told us about," daughter Lisa Mui LynFatt. "But that did not surprise us because of the person that he was."

Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or ameacham@sptimes.com.

. BIOGRAPHY

Kwok Kwong Mui

Born: Aug. 15, 1934.

Died: Jan. 20, 2011.

Survivors: Daughters Linda Mui Wright and her husband Daniel, Lisa Mui LynFatt and her husband Kevin, and Lilly Mui Dang and her husband Max; son James Mui and his wife Lisa; brother Kwok Ming Mui; nine grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews.

Kwok Kwong Mui, co-owner of the Golden Phoenix 01/29/11 [Last modified: Sunday, January 30, 2011 5:19am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Maria: Clearwater Coast Guard plane aids rescue near Puerto Rico

    Military

    Eight minutes. That's how long it took the Petty Officer 3rd Class Darryn Manley of the Coast Guard said it took him to spot the boat that capsized off a Puerto Rican island on Thursday.

  2. Mom of girl who died looking for candy seeks to keep husband away

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Eight days after her 4-year-old daughter died in the care of paternal grandparents, pregnant Lizette Hernandez sat in a Hillsborough County courthouse Friday, attempting to seek full-time custody of her 19-month-old son.

    Lizette Hernandez, 22, completes paperwork Friday for a motion for protection from domestic violence against her husband, Shane Zoller. Their daughter, Yanelly, 4, died in a reported gun accident at the home of Zoller's parents Sept. 14. She alleges that her husband hit her and caused her to fall on a grave marker at their daughter's funeral Thursday in a tussle over their remaining 1-year-old son. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL  |  Times]
  3. New owners take over downtown St. Petersburg's Hofbräuhaus

    Retail

    ST. PETERSBURG — The downtown German beer-hall Hofbräuhaus St. Petersburg has been bought by a partnership led by former Checkers Drive-In Restaurants president Keith Sirois.

    The Hofbrauhaus, St. Petersburg, located in the former historic Tramor Cafeteria, St. Petersburg, is under new ownership.
[SCOTT KEELER  |  TIMES]

  4. Ed Sheeran coming to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa

    Blogs

    Let it never be said Ed Sheeran hasn't given the people of Tampa what they want.

  5. Editorial: Once more, homeowners are let down by state housing agency

    Editorials

    Once upon a time, the federal government created a program called the Hardest Hit Fund. Its goal was admirable, and its mission important. The fund was designed to aid Americans in danger of losing their houses after the Great Recession had wreaked havoc on the economy. Unfortunately, the folks in Washington erred in …

    The Hardest Hit Fund was designed to aid Americans in danger of losing their houses after the Great Recession. Unfortunately, the folks in Washington trusted Florida to get that money into the hands of people who needed it most.