Pagoda Tea House Celebrates 25 Years in Lakewood
While more than 50 percent of new businesses fail in the first five years, the Pagoda Tea House, Lakewood, didn’t. Not only that, Pagoda Tea House, 700 Route 70, and its owner Charlie Song are celebrating the Chinese Thai restaurant’s 25th year of being in business. Pagoda has outlasted scores of other businesses. Is there a secret to this success?
Charlie says when he sees his customers come in, he doesn’t just see customers. He sees friends. “I have become very dear friends with many of them,” Song said. “My place is an old-school, mom and pop kind of place. We have many customers who are on a first name basis.”
The result has been scores of friends who have been part of his life for long years. He has seen marriages, attended funerals, and seen milestones come and go. And that’s the way he likes it. “I feel it’s more than just serving food. It’s a personal thing. I’m proud and honored to be part of this community.”
Although Pagoda began as a modest take-out place, over time it developed into a full-fledged restaurant, open seven days a week with a full bar. When Song of East Hanover, N.J., took over 14 years ago, however, he didn’t realize it would be more than a mere restaurant. Things changed when he got to know the people he serves. His time with the area’s senior communities – he says up to 90 percent of his business comes from the adult communities of the region – has resulted in more than just customers.
Lakewood Township Committeeman Ray Coles remembers when Pagoda Tea House was just another Chinese take-out place. Over the years it has turned into one of the businesses that has made Coles a regular customer and one of those “friends” Song refers to. Coles said, “Pagoda has become my family restaurant. We’ve celebrated birthdays, confirmations, graduations, and many other family events there.
“I am always impressed at how the hard-working business owners of Lakewood have shaped the community into what it is today,” Coles said. “Lakewood has a vibrant community, and it continues to grow as a rich, thriving community thanks to neighbors like Pagoda Tea House. I’m thrilled that they have reached 25 years and are still going strong.”
For his part, Song would like to reach 50 years in the community – possibly with the help of his two young children, the oldest of which is 10. “I’m trying, if I live another 25 years.”
Song said he doesn’t aspire for Pagoda Tea House to be anything more than it is – a welcoming place that serves traditional, freshly prepared food to people who simply want a pleasant night out.
“I consider us an authentic family place where people come for the food. If you don’t have great food, you have nothing,” Song said. “To have our customers be friends, that just makes what we do more special.”
Pagoda Tea House is located at 700 Route 70 East, Lakewood, in Shore Plaza. Hours: Mon.-Thurs., 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.; Fri. and Sat., 11:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.; and Sun., Noon – 10:00 p.m. For more information, reach them at 732-523-2829.