Andy Yee, who passed away Thursday, was the true definition of a serial entrepreneur. Even though he had a number of businesses, especially restaurants, he was always looking for that next challenge, that next opportunity.
And he took on each project with an abundance of energy and enthusiasm that was as inspiring as it was contagious. And many of his undertakings were not just business ventures — they were game changers in our local communities, difficult yet successful efforts to save institutions such as the Student Prince in Springfield and the White Hut in West Springfield from being relegated to the past tense.
In 2015, BusinessWest named Yee and several of his business partners, including Peter Pan Chairman and CEO Peter Picknelly and Kevin and Michael Vann, as Difference Makers for their efforts to save the Student Prince. And that title certainly suited him. He was a difference maker as a business owner and entrepreneur, as a family man, and as a leader in the community.
As a business writer who interviewed him dozens of times over the past two decades, I was always struck by how energetic he was, how hands-on he was in every endeavor he became involved with, and how he always had one eye on the present and the other on the future, trying to anticipate what was to come and be ready for it.
That is the essence of a leader, and that’s another word that fits Yee like a glove.
His latest endeavor is a restaurant project in Court Square in Springfield, another landmark that needed someone to step forward and give it a new direction, a new future. Yee was part of a large team doing just that.
We sincerely hope this project moves forward. It will be difficult without his leadership, his enthusiasm, and his ability to get the tough projects done. But when it’s complete, it will be a fitting tribute — yet another one — to how Andy Yee had the ability to not only open a business, but change a community for the better, and make a huge difference.
He will be missed.