Joe Gan Family
Gan came to Windsor in 1930 from Canton, China. He took passage
on an old steamer in the bottom hold for $36. He had dreams,
but with little money and no English he realized work would
be all but impossible to find, unless it was in a Chinese restaurant
or hotel that needed his services. After few desperate weeks
and some hopeless days he found work at a night club called
Mandarin Gardens. This second floor establishment was located
on Ouellette Avenue south of University Avenue. He was hired
as a short order cook, dish washer, janitor, and bar tender.
He eventually bought one third interest in the restaurant. This
was his first investment in Windsor and he sold it four years
later. He had vivid memories of those days as if they were yesterday
he recalled with a smile, “twelve hour days were short
went back to China in 1932 for a couple of years and then returned
to Windsor for good. He had many friends here and many recall
the days when he owned the Hotel Commodore and Gan’s Restaurant
on Pitt Street or Jo-Lim’s on Riverside Drive; all of
which nearly date back to the Depression. His entrepreneurship
also saw him as owner of Lakewood Golf Course, the Mai Mai Restaurant
on Ouellette Avenue, and operating the food and spirits concession
at Roseland Golf Club.
Gan counted among his many friends Mr. Pulling the owner of
the Prince Edward Hotel, Paul Martin Sr., and Gordon Stewart.
His anecdotes were as many as they were diverse, but recalled
two which were memorable: hiring a contractor whose brother
was a bank robber and being given free tickets to the 1967 World
Series won by the Detroit Tigers.
the Hotel Commodore came available in the early thirties it
only had a bar upstairs. His friend Mr. Pulling helped him,
he recalls the basement as just an empty cellar and he couldn’t
understand why the owner hadn’t turned it into a bar.
All he needed were some tables, chairs and a bar cooling system.
A small loan was paid off within a few weeks as business was
so good. The Commodore was located just east of Ouellette on
Chatham Street, and Saturday afternoon jazz added to the Commodore’s
renaissance. Joe recalled those were the days, when ladies needed
an escort to gain entrance to a beer parlor and when only one
glass of beer could be served at a time. The Hotel Commodore
underwent renovations inside and out and officially opened as
a grill on October 19, 1939. This dining and dance spot specialized
in seafood dishes and its marquis read Hotel Commodore Sea Food
a few years Joe Gan desired a smaller restaurant and lounge.
Joe sold the Lakewood Golf Club and his concessions interests
at Roseland Golf Club. Wanting to return to Riverside Drive
and Pitt Street where a small Chinatown was emerging, Joe bought
a restaurant called Chung Hi Restaurant and renamed it Jo-Lim’s.
Ironically, the former business was located on the site of Le
Goyeau Apartments where he lived. Although, the 1930’s
were rough, Joe Gan found the words to express and live those
dreams. In the end his life was filled with friendships, anecdotes
and numerous successes.