Life is fleeting.
Laurel Fang — whose infectious smile along with her gracious and accommodating demure has made dining a pleasant experience for 25 years for many in Manteca — knows that all too well.
There’s no elegant way to put this: Laurel is dying.
“I can no longer answer ‘great!’ when people ask me how I am,” Laurel said. “The doctors say this growth inside me could explode at any time – instantly doing away with me, or it may just hide out for awhile.”
It is why Laurel and her beloved Isadore are closing their popular North Main Street restaurant so they can spend her remaining time together not worrying about the daily grind of preparing and serving lunch and dinner to many customers who have become friends over the years.
The last day for Isadore’s is on Friday, Aug. 29, with the final dinner served between 5 and 8 p.m.
Laurel said she was given instructions from her doctor to rest, get her affairs in order and to spend time with her husband Isadore. That is very hard to do, she added, because the business has been their life, their hearts and souls.
The restaurant, however, will continue with new owners.
Laurel said that the owners of the Strings Restaurant had been asking them to sell to them for the last three years, calling every six months with the same offer.
“We always said no,” Laurel noted.
“They called us again almost immediately after we received the news from the doctor. It was definitely a God moment,” she said.
Strings will be buying the land and the business.
Laurel hopes many of their clientele that she has grown to see as friends and an extended family of sorts will drop by the restaurant see them before the final night’s dinner. Isadore has already offered to go back and help the Strings’ staff if they feel they need him, she said. If not, he will undoubtedly be popping up somewhere in the community in a kitchen or serving from behind a bar.
Laurel and Isadore have worked as a husband and wife team a quarter of a century at the restaurant – he in the kitchen and she giving customers her recipe for tender loving care as well as taking care of the books. Naysayers at the time gave them only six months to survive in the restaurant – proving them wrong through 25 years and two recessions.
The always spirited, active and attractive restaurant owner kept moving forward no matter how badly she was feeling. She had lost too much weight during the last couple of years due to her illness and had spent time some in the hospital. She always got back in the saddle as soon as it was humanly possible with her consummate and infectious smile.
She added that the new owners are going to do their best to keep the banquet reservations already in place.
“He and I both hope to be here at the restaurant on Sept. 22 for the wonderful ravishing Red Hat Ladies,” Laurel said.
With a heavy heart, Laurel is contacting each guest with banquet reservations personally to discuss their options. She noted that if they had made a cash deposit, it will be returned to them – however a credit card is usually reserved for the upcoming events with no charges being made to the card before the day of the event.
“Even though we have the best group of people ever working with us, I still have to be hands-on. We’ve always been hands-on owners, which I attribute to a lot of our success,” she mused. She said they consider their staff as family to them as they work as a team to serve the customers.
Her love for Manteca has been noted time and again saying, “I have never lived any place where there is so much caring, giving and love as in Manteca.” Laurel has voiced that philosophy and her appreciation of the community with new residents dining with them after moving into the city.
“I hope they are able to experience the love and are grateful for moving to such a wonderful place,” she added.
Laurel then chided attorney Scott Johnson in the same breath for bringing American Disability Act (ADA) lawsuits against small businesses in the community.
“Businesses are run by owners – real people, not some corporation filled with people that could care less about you as a person,” she said as Mantecans often the handicapped as they wait at the door to help their customers into their building.
“We could have survived Mr. Johnson’s attacks, rather than settle as he expected people to do – we chose to fight with our wonderful attorney Michael Welch,” she said.
Laurel suggested that Johnson could choose to set up a fund with his profits going to help the handicapped.
During the course of her illness she was touched with the gift of a prayer shawl from the ladies of the Prayer Shawl Group made of prayers and love, seen as another example of Manteca’s love.
“I touch it every day for its strength,” she said.
Thanking their customers. Laurel said she has had the best job in the entire world meeting absolutely wonderful people who have prayed for them – “people who care about us.”
“Our job was simply to make people happy and we were pretty good at that plus the free hugs whenever they needed them,” Laurel said.
She singled out Lisa at Bank of Stockton saying for seeing them as people and not just another account number.
“Lisa always helped us so much and always with kindness,” she noted.
She is now urging their customers to use their gift cards as soon as they possibly can because they will become invalid with the sale and the new owners.
For Laurel and Isadore, this year is also their 30th wedding anniversary – having been together 24 hours a day at home and at the restaurant.
“It’s time to become husband and wife again while we still can,” Laurel said.