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

Henry T Kolacz said...

Just one caveat I have to mention. After buying the business from my granmother Netta Pepi I applied to the Hempstead zoneing board for a variance to put on a room for catering and weddings. Only 200x200 on the corner of Hempstead and Eagle Ave was zoned for business. The Poison Oakes association of West Hempstead got the residence all riled up. They got the lawyer Easa Easa to represent them,. Easa lived on Lindgergh st with his mother and father and his berother Jack and sister Mary Jane who I went to high school with. I was denied the variance. The reason I decided to sell. Several weeks after the denial one of my customers was having dinner at the Maison Pepi and called me over to his table. Sit down Henry he said. I have something I need to tell you but you must promise me you will never tell who told you. Okay I said. He told me that he was in Easa Easa's office on business. He heard Easa on the phone with a member of the Oaks association.Easa told that person not to worry about the variance it was not going to be approved because he had already taken care of advising the zoneing board not to approve it.. Easa was a rethuglican as well as my grand father who donated thousands of dollars to the party. Easa should rot in hell for what he did. He was a two faced bastard who was worried about being reelected as an assemblymen. Norman Magdance who lived right down the street from the restaurant was a leader of the Oaks and reminded Easa that votes count.

Anonymous said...

I'm a bit confused. In the 1970s, a Charlie Pepi lived with his family on the corner of Dogwood and Cornwell avenues in Malverne. I've understood him to be the owner of the Maison Pepi

He had a wife Helen, daughter Helen and son Charlie. The children attended the Valley Stream North School District.

bobby conti said...

I remember Angelo Lorenzo who lived in Hempstead near the golf course as a part owner of gum ying until it's closing..Angelo passed away in the early 2000s and the gum ying establishment was closed a shorttime later.he was dating a young Asian woman connected to the business..Angelo was a well connected guy with both good contacts on both side of the fence..real old school Italian...many connected people would frequent that restaurant

Anonymous said...

I worked at Maison Pepi as a busboy from 1970 to 1972 or so. Boy, if the walls could talk. There was a lot of gossipy stuff going on in there. But the food was awesome and the place was always packed. My favorite room was a small space with a fireplace. One night I lit the fireplace without opening the flue and created quite a stir. I remember Charlie and his wife Helen, very well. Very sad to see that someone had the gall to knock down what was a beautiful old building and put up a CVS, of all things.