A new owner has taken over the building formerly occupied by Happy Valley Chinese Restaurant, 111 East Herrick Ave.
Happy Valley closed in March 2017 after a fire severely damaged its interior and an upstairs apartment. Space heaters and other electrical factors in the apartment are believed to have caused the blaze.
JPW LLC of Spencer purchased the property this spring for $50,000, according to the Lorain County Auditor’s website. Happy Valley owners Man Hoy Kwong and Huan W. Wai paid $60,000 for the building in 2008.
Jeff Worcester, owner of JPW LLC, did not return calls asking for comment. According to village officials, he has not yet made his intentions for the building clear.
Fire chief Mike Wetherbee said work has begun to restore the building to working condition.
“I know (Worcester) has hired people to go in there and start cleaning things up,” he said. “It’s being cleaned out right now. Other than that, I won’t know anything else until plans are presented to the planning commission or someone files for a permit. The former owners didn’t have insurance on the building. If anyone wants to hold them liable for any of the damage, they’ll have to do it in civil court.”
Village officials learned last summer that Happy Valley had never purchased fire insurance and were unable to reestablish contact with the former owners.
Wendy Xia, operator of the restaurant, had been living in the upstairs apartment where the fire began.
Al Leiby of the Spirit of ‘76 Museum on South Main Street said the apartment was used by Archibald Willard to gain inspiration for his famous painting, which is the museum’s namesake.
All Ohio Train and Toy Company, located adjacent to Happy Valley, was able to avoid fire damage in its downstairs store, but an upstairs storage area was affected by smoke.
No legal precedent could be found that would have forced the former owners to carry fire insurance, according to village law director Steve Bond.
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.