International students combine Chinese cooking and start-up culture

On Sept. 9, 2015, the storefront at 21 Broadway got a window and a door. Thick glass stretched from floor to ceiling, end to end, broken only by the black trim. For months, rough wood paneling had covered this stretch between Good Nature Market and Lou Lou Boutique—an empty space on one of New Haven’s busiest retail strips. A new fast-casual Chinese restaurant would soon open: Junzi Kitchen.

Prior to Sept. 9, a series of vibrant murals on the paneling marked time’s passing, and promised activity behind the wooden walls. Portraits of the Junzi team appeared first. Next, a collection of candy-colored bubbles, each one touching its neighbor as a symbol of unity. The final mural, a map of old New Haven modified with vegetables and dining tables and cooking pots, pointed to the restaurant’s new presence in the city. Each painting drew interest from the crowds that idly shopped or congregated at the bus stop. They reminded the passerby, as the months passed and the paneling remained, that something was happening inside, that the Junzi team was getting ready. We’re here. We’re coming.

Setting out to start up