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Between the Wars (1920-1940)

Peter Lee's Grand Cafe Sign

Grande Cafe Sign

This art nouveau sign hung over the Grand Cafe's door

In 1926, Peter Lee, proprietor of the Grand Cafe in Kingston, opened another Chinese cafe in Napanee. Also known as The Grand Cafe, the Napanee restaurant was under the management of Ling Lee, formerly of the Grand Cafe in Kingston. DISCOVER MOREReadmore Arrow

A contractor from Kingston, Mr. Anglin, renovated the building's interior based on designs from W.J. Jewell. The April 13, 1926 edition of the Napanee Express reported the restaurant to be "one of the handsomest eating places to be found in Central Ontario."

An Art Nouveau styled leaded glass transom with lettering, "The Grand Cafe" in white glass was inset above the door. The name of the cafe was also featured in coloured tile below the windows. The interior displayed handsome paintings on walls. Low screens divided the tables and softly shaded coloured electric lights created a gentle ambience.

Lengthy articles in the Napanee Express and Napanee Beaver reported the banquet held in honour of the opening of the Grand Cafe held on April 7th, 1926. The banquet was well attended by prominent members of the community including Rev. A.J. Wilson, Councillor J.M. Simpson, Town Clerk W.A. Grange, and the Mayor of Napanee, Dr. Ming, as well as nearly one hundred other guests. Toasts were proposed to the King, the Town of Napanee, Public and Fraternal Bodies, the Grand Cafe, and the churches, with speeches delivered by Mr. Ling Lee and Mr. Peter Lee. In his short speech, Ling Lee thanked his many guests, and said he hoped his relations with the people of Napanee would be pleasant, saying Napanee already felt like home.

According to an old Grand Cafe menu, the most expensive dish was the 65 cent roast chicken dinner that included all the trimmings, plus a tea, coffee or milk. Most sandwiches were priced at 20 cents, with hot sandwiches and club sandwiches priced at 40 cents. Coffee and baked goods, including a slice of pie, were available for 10 cents.

By 1929, Napanee had three Chinese restaurants, the Empire Cafe on the south side of Dundas Street at Centre Street, the Grand Cafe on the south side of Dundas between Centre and John, and the New York Cafe on the north side of Dundas Street, between Centre and John. Two of the restaurants show in a 1928 postcard view of the main street.

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