A popular Asian buffet restaurant quietly closed its doors last week after more than 20 years of cooking in Rochester's Miracle Mile Shopping Center.

Many regulars were disappointed after the Labor Day holiday when they went to the Sky Dragon Buffet at 34 17th Ave. N.W. and found a sign posted on the door that reads, "Dear customers, We are closed. It's been a great pleasure serving the community for the past 2 decades. Thank you."

Ren Qiu and his sister, Nancy Feng, opened the Asian buffet in 1997. It became a well-known spot for traditional fare made by the family, who had other restaurants in the Twin Cities. In 2009, they also launched Imperial Wok for take-out and delivery at 90 14th St SW, next to Walgreens in the Crossroads Plaza commercial center on South Broadway. The family later sold Imperial Wok to new owners and it remains open.

The Miracle Mile Shopping Center is owned by developer Javon Bea, who also operates the Kahler Hospitality Group hotels in downtown Rochester. Kahler Hospitality Group's Chief Financial Officer Leslie Hohmann helps manage the shopping center.

"The lease was up this year and the owner decided that it was a good time to transition to other things," Hohmann wrote in response to questions about Sky Dragon's closing. "As you know and could probably do a much larger scheduled piece that extends well beyond Sky Dragon, small business operators are getting hit in multiple fronts. In Rochester, unemployment in this food service sector is low, wages are increasing, food costs continue to go up, taxes go up."

She added that restaurants that choose to use food delivery services such as Uber Eats, Door Dash and the Bite Squad, are seeing profit margins drop even more.

Miracle Mile is undergoing extensive remodeling and upgrading of its facade, and it doesn't look like the Sky Dragon space will be dark for very long. The shopping center is trying to line up a new restaurant in that spot.

Hohmann had a final thought to share with the sad Sky Dragon fans.

"Remind your readers … If you have a favorite small business, make sure you visit them regularly. Tell the small business owners that you appreciate them," she wrote.

Jeff Kiger tracks business action in Rochester and southeastern Minnesota every day in Heard on the Street. Send tips to jkiger@postbulletin.com or via Twitter to @whereskiger. You can call him at 285-7798.

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