By ADAM DRAPCHO, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Yan Hong, owner of Shang Hai Restaurant, was in for a surprise when she returned from a trip to New York during school vacation week last month. Her friends, some of whom live nearby and who had keys to the building to do a little painting, put up a tribute to the Weeks Dairy Bar, which had previously been located in the building.
"When I came home, I said, 'What!?,='" said Hong, who was pleased to see the old photographs, menu and other artifacts prominently displayed by the front register and entrance.
The Weeks Dairy Bar, one of many locations restaurants around the state operated by the Weeks family of Gilford, was in operation at 331 S. Main St. in Laconia for more than 50 years, said Hong. Many people who grew up in Laconia remember the restaurant, including Hong, who spent nine years working at her parents' restaurant, Honey Bird, across the street.
As the millennium approached its end, Hong's parents were ready to retire, and the Weeks Dairy Bar was preparing to close. The Dairy Bar's last day of operation was March 30, 1999, and Hong took over the lease the next day. She took down the prior restaurant's decor so she could put up her own, but kept mementos stored in the attic, including historic photos, an old menu, and Weeks-branded milk bottles. Some of the photos show vehicles and buildings, but three portray employees – waitresses, a milk delivery man, and a man working at a bottling line. Some of those, if not all, are likely local people, though Hong doesn't know their identity.
Although it has been nearly 20 years since Hong took over, she said she still has patrons come in with nostalgia from a previous era in the city's history. Hong welcomes their reminiscences, and said many will examine a large aerial photo of downtown Laconia, the only part of the Weeks decor that she never took down.
"I love to have joy with them, have a happy time," she said.
Yan Hong, owner of Shang Hai Restaurant in Laconia, returned from vacation last month to find that friends had installed a tribute to Weeks Dairy Bar near the eatery's entrance. The restaurant took over the location when Weeks closed in 1999. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Adam Drapcho)
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