Update: Funeral arrangements have been made for James Loo, the owner of The Birchwood restaurant in Polish Town who died early Wednesday at Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead.
Visiting hours are Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at Alexander-Tuthill Funeral Home in Wading River. Then again on Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m.
An internment will be held Monday at Wading River Cemetery.
Born Tuesday, July 13, 1971, he was the beloved son of Young Loo and Shui Li Loo. Loving father of Amanda Loo. Cherished brother of Victor Loo, Kenny Loo, and Debbie Loo.
The family will meet at the funeral home at 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. for words of rememberance on Monday. The interment will be at at 11:15 a.m.
Original Post: The Riverhead community is mourning the loss of James Loo, the owner of The Birchwood restaurant in Polish Town as well as the former owner of The Village Crossroads restaurant in Calverton.
Mr. Loo died early Wednesday at Peconic Bay Medical Center. He was 42.
“It’s absolutely shocking,” said Denise Lucas, founder of nonprofit group, Riverhead Move the Animal Shelter. “He was so young and had so much going for him.”
Ms. Lucas said her organization held several fundraisers at The Birchwood, including its first fundraiser in Oct. 2011.
“He loved animals and he thought it was a worthy cause,” she said of Mr. Loo.
Ms. Lucas also had her wedding reception at The Birchwood in July of 2004. It was Mr. Loo’s first such event at the eatery, she said.
“We had made the plans with (the previous owner) and then we came back a week later and the place was sold,” she said. “They told me, ‘Don’t worry, nothing’s changing. Jimmy is taking over all the plans.”
The news shocked his employees too.
“It’s very sad,” said Maddy Cavaluzzi, who’s been a bartender at The Birchwood for 29 years.
“I’ve been working for him since he bought the restaurant from Mike (Jacobchek) and I worked for Paul and Estelle (Wilczewski) before that. I’ve worked for all the owners of The Birchwood. Jimmy was fine to work for. He took over and he kept all of the employees that had been working there for years. He basically let us run the show. It’s a major loss. He was a good guy to work for. He was too young.”
“It’s just a very sad situation, really,” said Daryl Sulzer who had been a manager at the restuarant. “He was much too young. I knew him probably about 10, 12 years. I was working at the Birchwood when he bought it. And he promoted me to manager when he bought it, the day he bought it. He came in and met the staff and had a staff meeting and right after that he called me into his office and asked if I wanted to be manager.”
Ms. Sulzer said Mr. Loo was a caring person who always looked out for the staff.
“He made sure everybody was happy and the customers were happy,” she said. “He just really was a nice guy. And very proud. He always took care of his family, his parents.”
She also said he treated the staff there like a second family.
Mr. Loo, who lived in Wading River, grew up in Setauket and graduated from Ward Melville High School there.
His brothers Ken and Victor own three other restaurants in downtown Riverhead, Haiku, Hy Ting, and Blue Agave.
Information on funeral arraignments was not immediately available.
with Michael White
Read more in the Jan.16 edition of the News-Review.