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Fortune is retirement at May Palace

Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyHenry Woo preps water chestnuts Friday for dinner service at May Palace, the restaurant he and his wife, Emma, have run for 21 years in Vail Village and West Vail.
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VAIL ” Henry Woo said he’ll keep cooking in his retirement.

“Sometimes,” he said. “For myself.”

Henry and his wife, Emma, are retiring from their restaurant, May Palace, and moving to California. They bought the restaurant in 1986, when it was in Vail Village. It later moved to West Vail.



“After 21 years, it’s time,” said Emma Woo. “You feel happy but a little bit sad.”

Though they’ve officially turned over the business to Henry’s brother, Rick, they are still helping out at the restaurant. On Friday, Henry was clad in his apron, helping in the kitchen, and Emma was rolling egg rolls in the dining room.



Restaurant work is hard work, and that’s one reason Emma said she is glad to retire. She and Henry usually work seven days a week, up to 12 hours a day, she said.

Henry, 59, was born in Taiwan and Emma, 58, was born in China, and they met in college in Taiwan. After they married, they immigrated to the U.S. in 1978, settling in Los Angeles, where they ran a restaurant for seven years.

In 1986, Henry’s brother, Rick, invited them to come to Vail, where they bought May Palace.



“He said, ‘You have to come out there. It’s so beautiful,'” Emma Woo said.

To the Woos, Vail was quiet, with little traffic compared to L.A. But they didn’t do too much skiing.

“I tried two times,” Emma said. “The winter is so busy, I can’t do it.”

Now Rick and his wife, Joyce, after running restaurants in Boulder and Steamboat Springs, are taking over May Palace.

“It’s good to see them move on to a new phase of life,” Joyce Woo said. “It’s a new phase of our life, too.”

Jessica Guthrie, who has worked at May Palace for five years, said she’s sad to see the Woos go.

“It’s like being part of a family and your mom and pop are leaving you,” she said.

Emma said she’d like to travel in her retirement. Henry said he’s looking forward to gardening. Leaving Vail will be bittersweet, she said.

“You feel like you lost something,” Emma said. “But, still, we’re happy to retire.”

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or estoner@vaildaily.com.


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