FREMONT — It’s been nearly a year and a half since anyone has tasted Yuk Wah Restaurant’s savory Mongolian beef, crispy sesame chicken, or soul-warming hot and sour soup.
The longtime Chinese restaurant and institution in Fremont’s Centerville district was one of several businesses forced to close over the past couple of years after the city approved a developer’s plans for new townhomes, apartments, and retail along a stretch of Fremont Boulevard between Peralta Boulevard and Parish Avenue.
Many businesses on that block — multiple restaurants, a bar, a clothier, and a food and liquor mart, among others — closed or moved out between summer and fall of 2019, some earlier, as SiliconSage Builders prepared to demolish the older, 1970s-era low-slung buildings, as well as a historic firehouse.
The wrecking crews began work last week.
Yuk Wah is shuttered for good, though some business owners decided to stay open, albeit after searching for similar commercial spaces for their businesses elsewhere in the city.
While the developer said they offered some relocation assistance to each tenant, Shaivali Desai of SiliconSage said Tuesday the situation with each tenant was different, and did not share details about the offerings.
Some tenants relocated, but had to make concessions, as they were unable to find a location that offered similar visibility and affordability.
Ghezal Omar’s Afghan Bazaar, which offers contemporary and traditional clothes, jewelry and accessories, relied heavily on its prime location in the heart of the area known as Little Kabul for its success. It had operated there for about a decade.
“That location was perfect for us,” she said of her former storefront at 37422 Fremont Blvd. “A lot of people come visit, maybe go to De Afghanan restaurant to eat, and they’ll be travelers from other parts of the world, and they would see our business and they would come by. So we lost a lot of foot traffic moving.”.
Omar has now relocated to a store on 4064 Bonde Way, a tiny side street off Fremont Boulevard’s main drag a bit north of her former location. It’s not visible from the main drag, and the space is a little larger than she needs, but she needs to stay near the Afghan cultural and business center of the city.
“For our business to work, it has to be in that area, because that’s where all the other Afghan stores and restaurants are. So it doesn’t make sense for me to open up in any other location in Fremont,” she said Monday.
Others have relocated as well.
The Hope Station Thrift Store and donation center that was located at the corner of Parish and Fremont, moved in the fall of 2018 to 41200 Blacow Rd., at the corner of Grimmer Boulevard, its CEO Chip Huggins confirmed this week.
Sam’s Best Food and Liquor store, which had been in the Little Kabul area since the mid-1990s, moved north into the Brookvale neighborhood in the fall of 2019 to a location at 36440 Fremont Blvd., according to an employee reached by phone and city business records.
Salang Pass, a popular Afghan restaurant with both table and floor seating, known for a wide array of dishes including its borani kadoo and rice dishes with morsels of lamb or chicken, also appears to have closed permanently and not reopened elsewhere. A co-owner of the restaurant could not be immediately reached for confirmation.
Round Table Pizza’s location at 37480 Fremont Blvd., was sold from one franchisee to another when word of the development came around.
Ali Kerachi, who owns several other franchises, was operating a Round Table food truck off of Thornton Avenue nearby for a short time, but ultimately couldn’t find a suitable location in the price range they had previously, according to Heather Kerachi, the marketing director for Kerachi’s group, and a spokesperson for Round Table.
The Back Door Lounge, a local dive bar known for heavy pours, darts, and its good location next to Yuk Wah, which delivered food to the bar patrons, appears to have closed permanently and not relocated, though the owner couldn’t be immediately reached for comment on this story.
One of the other longstanding gems of the block was Bob’s Hoagy Steaks, which had been in the same small brick storefront for decades, and grew a loyal following around its food as well as its hot sauce selection — operated by Jang Lim from 1989 until April 2019 when it closed its doors for good.
Reached by phone Tuesday, Lim said he tried to find a comparable space to reopen, but was unable and is closed for now. The coronavirus pandemic has also thrown some uncertainty into any possible plans for a reopening in the future, but Lim said he’s keeping an eye out for the right space.
Customers longing for a Hoagy’s cheesesteak with thick-cut steak fries fresh from the hot oil will have to travel north to Hayward, where a Hoagy’s outpost owned by another person is still in business.
Omar, of Afghan Bazaar, said she has no qualms with the redevelopment of the area, but said she wished the city and developer would have worked harder to more directly assist businesses in the area with planning for relocation and the costs.
“These are small businesses that everybody knows about because of their location,” she said.
“Little Kabul, that’s what it’s known for, it’s been known for that for decades now. You don’t want to lose that in a city,” Omar said.
“You don’t want to lose those little pieces of the culture that are so important, that give it character, and give it personality.”