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‘I Was Speechless’: Mr. Pak’s Closure Surprises Owner and Students

Aidan Cahill | The PhoenixZen Sushi replaces Mr. Pak’s, leaving owner Jung Pak “speechless” because sales had been soaring, he said.

Loyola replaced the sushi restaurant in the Damen Food Court with another vendor after spring break, even though the owner of the restaurant, Jung Pak, said sales were soaring.

“Back on Feb. 9 the food service management wanted to have a conversation with me and the first thing they said was that they found a new sushi vendor,” Pak said. “My heart kind of dropped and I was speechless. I wasn’t expecting it at all.”

Zen Sushi moved into the space Mr. Pak’s used to occupy March 14. Pak said his company served Loyola for nearly 20 years, starting by supplying grab and go sushi and opening the food court restaurant a few years ago. Pak’s company serves more than 100 institutions across Chicago.

Pak said Loyola told him the reason they were replacing them was because the new vendor had a greater variety and bubble tea. 

Associate Director of External Communications Matt McDermott told The Phoenix this change was brought to Loyola in response to student requests to bring more variety to the food served in the food court. Students have been asking for healthy menu flexibility and Bubble tea which are both things Zen Sushi provides, McDermott said. 

Although McDermott cited student requests for Mr. Pak’s replacement, many took to social media to express their disappointment with it’s exit.

“We were excited to find Zen Sushi, which not only answered this request, but also matched the mission and values of Aramark and the University,” McDermott said. “There has been great excitement surrounding the opening, and we have received many positive comments from students about Zen Sushi’s Menu and Bubble Tea options.”

McDermott didn’t answer follow-up questions about how Zen Sushi provided more variety than Mr. Pak’s or why the university would replace Mr. Pak’s if its owner said sales were higher than ever before. 

Though Pak said he was sad to leave Loyola, he said he wants what’s best for the students. 

“I worked there a couple times when there were staff shortages and [the Loyola community] were the sweetest people who bought our product,” Pak said. “I was so proud to be there serving those students. As long as they take good care of the students who have taken care of me, what am I supposed to say?” 

First-year nursing major Natalie Batshon said she was sad when she heard Mr. Pak’s was closing down because it was one of her favorite spots on campus. 

“Sushi is one of my favorite foods and Mr. Pak’s was an easy, convenient way to fulfill that craving,” Batshon said. “Considering Mr. Pak’s was always busy, I was also shocked that they were closing because a lot of Loyola’s students loved it.” 

Olivia Borst, a first-year nursing major, said she enjoys the new sushi place but she misses Mr. Pak’s. 

“The new sushi place is still really good, but it just didn’t hit like Mr. Pak’s,” Borst said.“The ingredients are prepared a little differently and the service was definitely not as friendly but that could’ve just been my experience.”

Borst had no complaints about Mr. Pak’s. The people were always friendly and they made an effort to get to know you, Borst said. 

“They pretty much knew my order [at Mr. Paks] and it was always a good experience,” Borst said.

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