No More Hong Kong-Style Jerky?

New Beef King owner Robert Yee, 67, has decided to close the door after years of postponing his retirement. (Photo by Chunxiang Jin via World Journal)

New Beef King, a shop that has been selling Hong Kong-style beef and pork jerky in Chinatown for decades, is soon to close because the retiring owner cannot find a successor. Customers who learned of the news have rushed to the shop in the past few days to try to purchase the last batch of jerky on the shelves and to say goodbye to the owner. “There are other jerky shops in Chinatown. But many people find their favorite flavors at New Beef King. When the shop closes, I don’t know where I will get my favorite jerky,” a customer said.

The shop, which has been in business on Bayard Street for 35 years, posted a message on its website a few days ago, bringing the customers this tough news. Robert Yee, the owner, told World Journal on Sept. 22 that he has been thinking of retiring for a while, but had to delay it year after year for his loyal customers. His grown children have their own careers and have no interest in taking over the shop. Now he and his wife have finally decided that they’ll retire after the last batch of jerky is sold out. They’ll shut down the shop and spend the rest of their lives traveling and taking care of their grandchildren.

Yee is from a family that had been making and selling jerky in Hong Kong for generations, using their own secret recipe. In 1959, eight-year-old Yee moved to New York with his family, and they settled down in Chinatown. In the early 1980s, Yee’s sister started New Beef King and enjoyed good business, which got even better when Yee and his wife took it over in the mid-1990s.

New Beef King at 89 Bayard St. is closing shop after 35 years. (Photo by Chunxiang Jin via World Journal)

From the fruit juice and oyster flavors to the spicy and curry flavors, the various beef and pork jerky at the shop attract many loyal customers. A few jerky shops opened after New Beef King, but they all sell Malaysian-style jerky, which are sweeter. So New Beef King remains the most-liked shop for many jerky lovers in Chinatown.

Yee said the process of making jerky is very complicated. New Beef King’s traditional recipe makes it more time consuming and it has to be made freshly daily. So in the past more than 20 years, he has to come to the shop every day. Now he is 67. “I wanted to retire when I was 62. But it was postponed again and again,” said Yee. “Last month, my wife underwent surgery. We realized that we cannot wait anymore. So we made this hard decision.”

Yee’s two sons and daughter work in real estate and finance respectively. There is no one in the family who would like to take over the shop. But Yee said he still will keep the recipe in case his grandchildren would like to reopen the shop to provide the customers the most authentic jerky in the future. “The customers are sad. But they are also happy for us. Finally we can go traveling and spend more time with our grandchildren,” Yee said.

Wenlam Leung, who lives on Long Island, visited the shop on Sept. 22, together with her mother-in-law and two young sons. They spent close to $200 on different flavored jerky. “I grew up in Chinatown and have loved New Beef King ever since I was a kid. I’ll miss it,” said Leung. So will her sons. “My sons love the jerky here too. The first time they had it was before they were born because I had a lot of jerky when I was pregnant,” Leung said.

Although she moved away later, Leung said she comes back to Chinatown every now and then to buy the jerky. “Other shops sell jerky too. But I don’t know what I willl do without New Beef King,” she said.

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