Edward “Eddie” Leo was a teenager when his family moved to Ogden from Hong Kong in 1966.
After a few years in Ogden, the family moved again in 1970, this time to Stansbury Park. The following year in 1971, they opened a Chinese restaurant at 39 N. Main Street in Tooele.
Edward’s parents, Guy Fay and Bou Kin Leo, called their new establishment Sun Lok Yuen. The name means “New Happy Garden.”
“The name was chosen because the restaurant is another happy place for families to get together, other than their homes,” said Jennifer Leo, Edward’s daughter.
The rest is history. While families of customers gathered in the dining area, in the back the Leo family worked together. Edward grew to love the restaurant business, and he ran Sun Lok Yuen with his father and his brother Dee for several years.
As the business grew in reputation and clientele, Edward saw a need for more space. In 1979, the family built a new restaurant about four blocks north of the old building. The new place, located at 615 N. Main Street, has been the restaurant’s home ever since.
Edward and his wife Fong took on the primary responsibilities involved in running a restaurant around 2003, when Dee started working at a different job. It’s been a lot of work, but Edward loved it.
“From the very beginning when we were at the 39 North Main, we used to be open from like 10 to two in the morning, seven days a week, and we did that for many, many, many years,” Edward said. “When we moved down here, we still did seven days a week for quite a while and 11 to 10 or 11, something like that. I’m here every day.”
He continued, “Yes (it is a lot of work), but you have to enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t be around here long. You have to love the business and love the job and love the people.”
Loving people is something Edward does well, his daughter said.
“He loves it all, but more than anything, he loves the many connections he’s had the privilege of making,” Jennifer said. “While opening the restaurant was his family’s start to a great career, it’s become so much more than that. Tooele County has welcomed our family and our business with open arms. We have been fortunate to have the support of the community, both of our family and our business.”
As one of the longest-running independent restaurants in Tooele, Edward’s family has had the opportunity to meet countless people. Many of their customers have become close friends.
“Customers will pop into the kitchen just to say hello to my dad,” Jennifer said.
Somewhere along the way, Edward picked up the nickname “Fast Eddie.” Neither he nor Jennifer knows exactly why, but the name is a token of people’s affection.
“That’s been my nickname ever since I’ve been here,” Edward said.
“Even as his daughter, I have no idea,” Jennifer said. “If you ask the customers, they’ll each give you a different story.”
Edward added, “We have a lot of old friends. … I’m going to miss this when I retire. We have lots and lots of friends. … We’re just like family.”
Of all the things the Leo family has enjoyed about running a restaurant, the customers are at the top of the list.
“There’s so much to credit as far as what brings us the greatest joy in the restaurant,” Jennifer said. “Definitely the community support — our customers are not just customers.”
Jennifer and her siblings also learned a lot about hard work from watching their parents run the business.
“For them, it was their American Dream — they were able to build a life for themselves and their family,” she said. “Speaking as a child that was raised in a restaurant, a lot of values were instilled in us growing up in the restaurant and learning that industry. (We learned to) work hard. … They (my parents) showed us that by example; they showed us what building a life is. And — I think my dad would admit to this — we’ve been very lucky to have such a strong clientele throughout the years.”
In recent days, Sun Lok Yuen’s clientele has been stronger than ever. Since announcing their retirement, the Leo family has reconnected with several people who used to be regular customers before moving away.
“Not only do we have regular customers, we have known generations of families that are ‘regulars,’” Jennifer said. “In fact, after announcing my parents’ retirement, many families have come from all parts of Utah, and even some from outside of Utah, just to have one last meal at Sun Lok Yuen as a family.
“Just this past weekend, we had multiple families come in and tell us that they had grown up eating at our restaurant, then they had their own families and brought their own children in, too,” Jennifer said. “As my parents had the pleasure of getting to know customers and their generations of family, these same customers got to know my grandparents, parents, siblings, and now my parents’ grandchildren.”
Edward and Fong Leo plan to stay in Stansbury Park after the restaurant’s last day on Sept. 20. Edward said he intends to spend his retirement traveling and generally enjoying life.