The History of Bean Restaurant Group
Our story begins with Johnny and Linda Yee. These newlyweds were in the restaurant business in Boston, but dreamed of creating a restaurant that would be different. Something more exciting and exotic than the typical oriental restaurant. It was through Johnny Yee's inspiration to create a restaurant that brought the romance and excitement of the Pacific Islands to New England that The Hu Ke Lau was born.
After an extensive search for the right location they selected a small building in Chicopee, MA; which because of its proximity to interstate 90 (The Mass Pike) and Interstate 91 could rightfully be called the ‘Crossroads of New England’. In April of 1965 Johnny & Linda opened the now iconic Hu Ke Lau. At the time it was a 150 seat restaurant serving Cantonese and Polynesian Cuisine, featuring the areas first Polynesian Floor shows!
"Hu Ke Lau" is Hawaiian for “fishing party”, it was their hope that guests would have as much fun dining at The Hu Ke Lau as was the case when Hawaiians held their fun-filled fishing parties. The concept was a success and as a result the Hu Ke Lau has expanded throughout the years to include a variety of private rooms, and a 450 seat showroom where you can now catch a variety entertainment from concerts to comedy as well as those classic Polynesian shows the Hu Ke Lau is famous for!
As they grew their business Johnny and Linda Yee also grew their family. The pair raised four children who were, and remain to be integral members of the family business. Their children Andrew, Edison, Anita, and Nicholas grew up at the Hu Ke Lau along with their Aunt Bonnie. Being raised in an atmosphere where hard work and determination were the key to success this quintet of family members decided to use their talents to expand and grow into a thriving Restaurant Group.
They named the group “Bean Restaurant Group” B for Bonnie, E for Edison, A for Andrew and Anita, and N for Nicholas. Their first venture outside the Hu Ke Lau, was to take over the beloved South Hadley watering hole “The Halfway House”. The Yee family purchased The Halfway House in 2002, and continue to operate the cozy local pub.
After this success they decided to open a new restaurant in their home town of South Hadley. This restaurant named in legacy of Johnny Yee was called ‘Johnny’s Bar & Grille’ which opened its doors in 2006. Johnny’s Bar & Grille is a staple in the South Hadley Village Commons and serves up classic American pub cuisine.
The group continued to expand in 2011 when it opened the Amherst hot spot ‘Johnny’s Tavern’ where the polished casual cuisine and atmosphere still continues to delight locals and tourists alike.
After this venture they opened Johnny’s Tap Room, an extension of ‘Johnny’s Bar & Grille’ also located in the South Hadley Commons. This bar and event space is a favorite in the community and can host private parties up to people while also serving up fun with an impressive central bar that locals adore.
The next restaurant to feather the cap of the brand is IYA Sushi & Noodle Kitchen also located in the vibrant South Hadley Commons. A stone’s throw from the local theater IYA has been a runaway success where students, locals, and tourists alike gather to dine on the finest sushi, sashimi, poke bowls, and ramen in the area.
The Yee Family’s next challenge would present itself in the form of the iconic Student Prince located in Springfield MA at 8 Fort Street, gaining the nickname ‘The Fort’ from locals. Often referred to as a ‘bucket list restaurant’ because of its unique appeal the German restaurant was in peril of closing its doors when the Yee family stepped in and saved this New England gem in 2014. A true one of a kind destination restaurant with deep ties in the community this location is truly one of a kind.
The group continued to grow in 2015 when they purchased a charming local Diner in Hadley, MA. Johnny’s Diner continued to cement their father’s legacy where they serve up farm fresh eggs and all the classic Diner favorites you know and love made from scratch. Right down the road from UMASS Amherst, on Rte 9, the Diner is the newest addition to the impressive Bean Restaurant Group portfolio of eateries.
The last venture the group took on was at the 'Big E' New England's biggest and most celebrated state fair. Located in West Springfield MA the group opened a spin off brand from the German concept The Student Prince, and called this venture 'The Wurst Haus' serving 18" Bratwursts, pretzels the size of your head and giant boots of beer in a commemorative mug the Wurst Haus was the smash hit of the fair! Providing the singular service the group is known for in a fun fair environment.
While the group now boasts eight restaurants along and employs over 400 people the Yee family has never lost sight of what has truly mattered. They still bring the same sense of hospitality, happiness and that welcoming Hawaiian spirit to all of their guests and team members. Theirs is truly a tale of the American Dream.