The Lingnan

History

The Early Years
Modern Times

The Lingnan restaurant opened in 1947 and has remained in operation longer than any other Chinese food restaurant in Edmonton.

Philip Pon, the Lingnan’s founder, arrived in Canada as a teenager in the early 1910s.

A houseboy for a very wealthy family in Vancouver, he worked as a tailor’s apprentice in the evenings and on his day off.

In fewer than 10 years, Philip saved enough to move to Alberta and open a small grocery business in Metiskow.

He earned extra income by taking orders for custom-made silk garments sewn in Vancouver.

By 1921, Philip had made enough money to bring his wife, Wong Shee Pon, to Canada.

 

Over the next 20 years, Philip and Wong Shee owned and operated a succession of businesses in central Alberta, including a restaurant and grocers in Hughenden, a café in Wainwright and a hotel that Wong Shee managed.

 

By the 1940s, the Pons had become so successful that they moved to Edmonton to build a restaurant and import-export business on Jasper Avenue.

 

Faced with black marble and sporting a neon sign proudly flashing the Lingnan name,

the restaurant opened for business on Dominion Day 1947.

Wong Shee ran the restaurant, working every day from 4pm to 1 or 2 am, while Philip concentrated on the Yat Sun Importers and Exporters.

Norman, the Pons’ youngest son, remembers working at the restaurant as a teenager. His mother was in charge of the record player that sent music through the dining room. When the restaurant first opened, tea was served from silver pots and the square-shaped serving plates and dishes were ordered from England. While the dishes looked great, their corners were easily damaged and they were replaced within a few years by Medalta dishes made for the restaurant. Norman worked as a waiter but was also responsible for growing bean sprouts in the restaurant’s basement. Anything the restaurant did not use was sold to the downtown Eaton’s for sale on its food floor. A budding artist, Norman also designed the original logo used on the restaurant’s menu. The image was later made into patches that were sewn on the staff’s cardigans. The Pons operated the Lingnan until 1953, when they sold the business to the nine Quon brothers, members of a Chinese-Canadian family that had first arrived in Canada in the 1880s. The brothers divided the business, with one branch taking over the restaurant and the other taking over the import-export business. By 1962, the Lingnan had moved to its present location on 104 Street in downtown Edmonton. Enhancing the restaurant’s fine dining reputation, the new Lingnan was decorated with spectacular carved ceiling tiles and doorways imported from Taiwan and Hong Kong.

The Quons opened a second restaurant, the House of Quon, in 1967.  Kinman Quon, a nephew, was brought over from Victoria to help with the new venture.

Kinman worked at the House of Quon while going to school. He had been there for five years when the uncles decided to retire.  Kinman was too young to run the business by himself, so they sold the House of Quon to the Wong family.  Kinman was sent to Victoria for 6 months to train with a chef.

When he returned to Edmonton in 1973, he transferred to the Lingnan, where he has been ever since.  Although the uncles wanted to retire, the process unfolded slowly.

They allowed Kinman, the assistant manager and the chef to take over the running of the restaurant and buy shares in the business, but it took 10 years to complete the transfer of ownership.  The final uncle retired in 1992.

The Lingnan has retained its glorious interior.

It is operated today by the second and third generation of Quons–parents Kinman and Amy, and their adult children Miles, Mandy and Marty.

Miles, the eldest, has joined the family business. While he is not officially a partner, he owns shares in the family’s ventures and has introduced some innovations, operating the Lingnan food truck and opening the Lingnan Express, a take-out place in St. Albert.

Mandy and Marty help out, but have day jobs outside the restaurant.

Kinman and Amy have expanded the Lingnan empire and, along with the restaurant, also own the popular Chicken for Lunch outlet in Scotia Place.

Quick Facts

Location: Edmonton, AB

Owned by: Pon Family

Dates: 1947-Present

Video Gallery

Copyright 2014 Royal Alberta Museum

Contributors