China City owner expands island business with Mill Creek location

A China City chef works in the kitchen. Restaurant owner Jack Ng just opened a third store in the Mill Creek area.

Jack Ng started in the restaurant business as a dishwasher.

Today, he’s the owner of China City’s two Whidbey Island locations in Freeland and Oak Harbor, and opened an off-island location in Mill Creek in July.

“We just work hard and focus on chasing the dream,” Ng said. “One dream at a time.”

Ng said he has been looking in the Mill Creek area for a third location for a while now because it’s a new, youthful, fast-growing area.

Ng’s wife and partner Angela Vosburg trained 40 employees in June at their Freeland location in preparation for their Mill Creek location’s opening a few weeks ago. She has since spent much of her time with the new staff off-island.

Ng said they tried to open quietly and get their staff up to speed, but they were busy from day one.

“It’s been pretty busy,” Ng said. “We haven’t even advertised. It’s more than we can handle.”

Luckily, the new staff “all turned out really good,” Ng said.

Ng, a trained chef, has been spending more time in the kitchen since he has had to send island cooks to Mill Creek to help with the influx of new business.

Ng started his chain in 1999 in the Old Town Mall on Pioneer Way and has since moved twice before it arrived at its current Oak Harbor location. A couple of years later, the Freeland location opened.

The project truly was a family affair, Vosburg said, adding that his four siblings worked as wait staff.

The new location mirrors the two island locations with heated patio seating, landscaping, rock work with imported stones, lounges and dining areas. But the restaurant is still geared toward the casual family dining experience.

“We just want people to enjoy their experience,” Vosburg said.

The “destination” type atmosphere Ng strives for is just part of the business.

“It’s not just about food anymore,” Ng said. “A lot of people want to go out and socialize.”

In both Oak Harbor and Freeland, China City is known for its creative Chinese cuisine as much for being a place to meet for lunch, drinks or conversation.

The Mill Creek location, part of a quaint central business district at 15402 Main Street, is something he’s always wanted to build, Ng said.

His next big project?

“I want to take a break,” Ng said.

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