Sesame Inn Closes; Family Says Goodbye To Payson

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The sign on the door was both brief and gracious. It read: "Sesame Inn is closed. Thank you for all your support over the last seven years. God bless. Thank you, the Coopers."

For seven years, Chris Cooper owned and operated the popular Chinese restaurant in the Safeway shopping center on Highway 260 in Payson.

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Chris Cooper owned and operated the Sesame Inn restaurant in the Safeway shopping center on Highway 260 in Payson for seven years.

For many area residents, the menu was simple but appealing, with dishes like Szechwan beef, General Chu's chicken, sweet and sour pork and the ever-popular appetizers, crab puffs and potstickers.

But bigger and better opportunities lured Cooper and his family into making the tough decision to move away. Cooper locked the doors for the final time last week.

"We have to do what we, as a family, feel is best for our family's future," Cooper said. "We purchased a strip mall just outside of Houston, Texas and will be putting in a restaurant on one side and leasing out the other side."

Cooper and his wife, Bing, have three children -- two boys and a baby girl. He said the decision wasn't easy.

"We, as a family -- my wife, my children -- would like to thank Payson for the years of support and camaraderie," Cooper said. "For us, it feels like leaving a family. We made a lot of good, close friends and business acquaintances here."

Cooper said he would never forget his first week in Payson after moving here from the Phoenix area.

"My favorite memory of Payson was the first week I worked here," he said. "I came up and was working and managing the restaurant, but I was also serving tables. I didn't want people to think I was some big honcho -- I wanted to make sure that people knew I would do whatever it took to make certain they had a good experience at the restaurant. It was part of our philosophy.

"I was making a left turn at (Highways) 260 and 87 and I kept hearing someone laying on the horn next to me. I didn't look over at first because, being from the Valley, if someone beeps their horn at you like that, you generally don't look over because it's not a hello sign that you might expect to see. After the third time, I finally looked.

"In this case, it was a person I had met in the restaurant a day or two prior, and they were just saying hello.

"That's the nice thing about Payson that I think we'll miss the most -- that sense of a small community, that you feel a part of something."

Meeting and serving the guests is one reason Bob Sindelar, 64, worked at the restaurant for 10 years -- three years before Cooper took over.

"It was a good job," Sindelar said. "I enjoyed the people that I worked with and the people that I served. While I was basically a host, I did anything and everything that needed to be done. There wasn't anything I didn't do, except cook -- I left that to Chris and the other cooks. They were well trained in that area."

After 10 years, Sindelar does not know where he will be working next.

"I just enjoyed having a good relationship with the management and having a good job. I'll miss it," he said.

Personal service from Sindelar, Cooper and other staff members is something Gina Elliot said kept her coming back.

"I liked everything about it," said Elliott, who ate at Sesame Inn regularly for the past five years. "I liked the atmosphere and I think the service was extraordinary. They treated me so well, and the food was great.

"I met (Cooper) a few times. He would come by and check on the tables. I'm sad to see it close. It takes a little bit of joy away."

Cooper and his family hope to create a place with a similar atmosphere in Texas. The name of the new restaurant will be "Bing's Asian Bistro," named after Cooper's wife.

"It will be in Montgomery County, Texas, in the city of Bentwater, about 45 miles north of Houston," Cooper said. "We plan to turn the key Feb. 1. So, if you're ever in Texas, we'd love to see old faces again."

As to what will become of the vacant restaurant in Payson, Cooper added a P.S. to his final note on the door:

"P.S. Be ready for a great pizzeria."

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