A sign at the Curry House in Gardena says the restaurant is closed and instructs employees to come back alter for their final paychecks. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

Rafu Staff Report

Curry House restaurants in California were open as usual on Sunday night, but on Monday morning the employees learned that they were out of a job.

News of the chain’s sudden closure spread Tuesday on social media, with long-time customers and employees alike expressing sadness and anger.

As of Tuesday, there was no formal announcement from Curry House, whose website was offline, or its parent company, Texas-based Food Management Partners, whose website contained no information. Curry House’s Facebook page said that the restaurants were “permanently closed.”

Bishop Raiji Gaines posted on Facebook and Twitter, “As the final manager of the Curry House Gardena. I would like to thank all my team members for your hard work. I want to also thank all our faithful guests for coming in and spending time with all of us at Curry House. I want to sincerely thank you for choosing us.”

Established in 1983, Curry House, which specialized in Japanese-influenced Western dishes such as curry and spaghetti, had eight locations in Southern California: Little Tokyo, Torrance, Cypress, Gardena, West Los Angeles, Irvine, Puente Hills and Monterey Park; and one in Northern California, Cupertino.

At the Gardena store, the window display was gone and a sign on the door said the business was closed and instructed employees to come back later to pick up their final paychecks.

Formerly owned by House Foods, Curry House was acquired last year by Food Management Partners, which describes itself as a “multi-concept operator of independent restaurant brands.”

Twitter user @KazeRyu32 tweeted, “Used to work for the Torrance location. House Foods sold Curry House last year. The investment firm that bought us decided that profits weren’t good and closed every location. Was informed this morning that I no longer had a job.”

Local media sent reporters to Curry House in Gardena (pictured), Little Tokyo and other locations to report on the closure. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

According to Newsweek, Food Management Partners manages all store-level and corporate operations for Country Buffet, Don Pablo’s, Furr’s Fresh Buffet, Hometown Buffet, Hops, Old Country Buffet, Ryan’s, Sushi Zushi, Tahoe Joe’s and Zio’s Italian Kitchen in 36 states, and the investors also have operating interest in a handful of Lonestar Steakhouse and Texas Land & Cattle locations and run Dynamic Foods, a manufacturer and distributor of multiple lines of fresh and frozen products for contract food service and grocery stores.

A Facebook user and cosplayer who goes by “Kitty Kaboom” announced a memorial service to be held at the Little Tokyo location in Weller Court on Feb. 29 from 1 to 8 p.m.

“Well, if you were like me today you found out that Curry House overnight just completely up and left us all,” she wrote. “Without any type of warning or even last opening date we were left with an abrupt and suddenly shocking goodbye. This coming up weekend I will be at the storefront of the Little Tokyo Curry House location to leave candles, flowers and a large memorial board that you can write on saying your goodbyes to our beloved Curry House.

“The place we use to celebrate after every So Cal con. Many memories and birthdays we had. Awww heck, we even had an old-school cosplayer gathering back in 2002 over there called J Con … Come meet with friends, take your last selfies, even come in cosplay.”

Some customers have already left flowers, candles, notes and other items at the Little Tokyo site.

Curry House’s Facebook page still features photos of many menu items.

Little Tokyo activist Sean Miura, producer and lead curator of Tuesday Night Café, posted on Facebook, “I grew up going to Curry House in the South Bay. I hold strong food memories of eating kid’s meals off of gaudy plastic plates before I graduated to ‘grown-up food.’ I can feel the weird grit of their salad dressing when I close my eyes.

“It’s a place I associate with close ones I’ve lost over the years and the comfort of food and family. It was the backdrop for rare moments when we’d see relatives after long stretches away from Southern California.

“RIP to this weird corporate-curry-sauce-company-owned-not-quite-a-chain-restaurant with its corn potage, odd salad, and decor stuck in 1992. Thanks for the memories.”

Mystery author Naomi Hirahara posted, “The young’uns have more nostalgic memories of this eatery, which served pristine white plates of rice with a small bowl of fiesty curry. On the side was a green salad, bits of corn if I remember correctly, with a creamy Asian dressing. I would often wash down my bowl with a neat glass of iced coffee, which came with a tiny glass container of liquid sweetener and a cold metal mini-pitcher of cream. I also was partial to the spaghetti with tarako or fried vegetables on top.

“I periodically ate there in the 1990s as a thirtysomething person recalling her days in Tokyo. (I have to say that the plastic food for display was awesome.) Only one friend my age enjoyed it as much as I did.

“I’m not sure if Curry House was struggling so the new owner was trying to turn it around. Why buy a chain only to close it? I’m sure there are some extenuating circumstances, but based on the Gen-Xers that are mourning its closure, this is an example how commerce and acquisitions are not only about dollars and yen, but people’s memories and experiences.”

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