Monday, August 6, 2012

Maison Pepi - Gum Ying

Readers don't have to jog back their memories too far to remember when the building pictured above, a colonial home-turned restaurant, stood at the northeast corner of Hempstead and Eagle Avenues. It was only around ten years ago when it was torn down.   The house stood at that corner since at least the beginning of the 20th Century and at one time during the 1920s, was home to a famous interior designer named Edith Hebron.  

The image above was captured on a sunny day, some time in the 1960s, when the restaurant was known as Maison Pepi. In 1946,  Valley Stream resident and veteran restaurateur Charles Pepi purchased the home and converted it into a world-class eating establishment where patrons would come far and wide to enjoy its continental-American cuisine.  Maison Pepi was a real family-run establishment.  Charles Sr. served as Maitre d' while his wife and daughter waited for the tables, and his son, Charles Jr. tended the bar.  Maison Pepi would become a popular spot for wedding receptions, local civic and social group meetings, and a favorite jaunt for Long Island politicians. Charles Sr. died in 1962 and his son continued the operation until 1976.

That year the restaurant was sold and reopened under a new concern as Gum Ying, which served Chinese food and developed into a favorite eatery among locals. 

A highlight in the history of Gum Ying came on March 9, 1982, when it was paid a visit by New York City Mayor Ed Koch, who arranged a lunch meeting there with Nassau County Executive Francis Purcell.  The meeting was little more that a photo-op for Koch but it created alot of local buzz at the time.  Koch had had his sights on the NY State Governorship, but just prior to this meeting, he turned off upstate and Long Island voters when he described the suburban lifestyle as "sterile" in an interview for Playboy Magazine.  (He ended up losing the democratic primary to Mario Cuomo).  The lunch intended to make up for that gaffe and attempted to show how well Koch, an outspoken Democrat politician, could get along with his Republican counterparts like Purcell.  For the record, Koch ordered Chinese noodles and barbecue shrimp and remarked about how good the food was at Gum Ying (Purcell had already been a regular customer at the restaurant).

Alas, in 2002, Gum Ying closed its doors for good and the corner landmark that overlooked Hall's Pond for 100+ years was knocked down, to make way for the site's current occupant, below.


Anonymous said...

I remember Maison Pepe ashame they leveled that old house it was quite beautiful inside and out. I also recall across from Maison Pepe on the Eagle ave. side a house that was used for the restaraunt staff. I imagine thathas been leveled asweel.

Anonymous said...

It would be great if someone could post a few pics of this house as it looked when Gum Ying was there. I remember it looking similar but with yellow siding, and then they later added a lot of fancy stone and concrete during a later renovation.

Anonymous said...

I have my Sweet 16 there and somewhere I still have a napkin with its name on it. Then, as I got older, we used to love eating at Gum Ying. I cried when they knocked it down for yet another CVS.
"Pave paradise and put up a parking lot."

Anonymous said...

I am the the grandson of Charles Pepi Sr. My grandfather died in 1962 at about 12:30 AM I know because I was there to whitness it.Charles R. his son was off some where off in Europe. It took me almost a week and with the help of radio free Europe I finally found my uncle CHARLIE to tell him of my grandfathers death.. I ran the restaurant up to the time my grandmother it to become a Chinese Restaurant. Just wanted to set the record straight. I loved that place. Have fond memories of Hall's pond we cut a water storage tank inhalf and used it for two boats. That was in 1947 My Uncle gave his mother an ultimatum that she had heer choice . Either I had to go andr he would. She chose me and then it was like the Martins and The Coys I bought the business from my grand mother Netta. Times were changing so when we got the offer from the Chinese in Hempsstead we took it. The selling price was $750,000 in cash. Netta soon remarried to a gold digger by the name of Willi