Interview with Tony Nguyen, April 26, 2022

Dublin Core


Interview with Tony Nguyen, April 26, 2022


Asian Americans
Cooking, American
Grocers, Asian American







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Betsy Brody


Tony Nguyen

OHMS Object Text

5.4 Interview with Tony Nguyen, April 26, 2022 2021oh002_di_010 01:06:22 ohdi Digging In di001 How Food, Culture, and Class Shaped Asian Dallas Becoming Texans, Becoming Americans This project is possible thanks to the support of a Mellon/ACLS Community College Faculty Fellowship. Asian Americans Texas--History Cooking, American Grocers, Asian American Tony Nguyen Betsy Brody m4a oh_dig_audio_Nguyen_Tony_20220426.m4a 1:|14(8)|32(1)|46(14)|59(14)|73(11)|86(10)|102(5)|121(10)|143(1)|160(11)|184(10)|201(9)|214(8)|231(4)|244(4)|258(3)|271(2)|281(14)|294(11)|307(8)|319(7)|332(13)|345(5)|359(19)|373(10)|386(7)|399(9)|423(14)|443(13)|458(10)|473(7)|490(4)|506(4)|518(11)|537(10)|552(7)|570(8)|586(14)|599(13)|616(1)|628(8)|645(9)|663(12)|679(7)|693(3)|708(14)|721(6)|737(10)|756(12)|771(12)|784(16)|802(3)|812(11)|829(2)|849(6)|863(3)|876(12)|892(5)|903(1)|926(5)|942(4)|963(4)|978(1)|990(14)|1006(10)|1015(14) 0 Aviary audio 5 Introduction Asian American grocers ; Asian Americans ; Cooking, American ; Texas--History 37 Nguyen family arrives in Texas from Vietnam and establishes Vietnam Plaza Asian grocery ; Bedford ; Carrollton ; Catholic ; Church's Fried Chicken ; Dallas ; diverse ; entrepreneur ; fish ; fried chicken ; groceries ; grocery store ; Haltom City ; Vietnam ; Vietnam Plaza ; Vietnamese 503 Relationships with suppliers for Vietnam Plaza/Mentoring competition ; entrepreneur ; mentor ; relationship ; Vietnam Plaza 639 Growing up in Vietnam Plaza advertising ; Asian community ; Asian grocery ; cleanliness ; community ; family ; fish sauce ; groceries ; grocery store ; hospitality ; oyster sauce ; rice ; Vietnam Plaza ; word of mouth Asian American grocers 824 Work with The Halal Guys, Seven Leaves Cafe franchise ; restaurants ; Seven Leaves Cafe ; tea ; The Halal Guys ; Vietnamese 990 Reflections on &quot ; mom and pop&quot ; shops and site selection business ; demographics ; entrepreneur ; expansion ; growth ; marketing ; mom and pop 1219 Working at Lisa's Fried Chicken Church's Fried Chicken ; family ; family run restaurant ; fast food ; fried chicken ; hospitality ; Lisa's Fried Chicken ; Vietnam Plaza 1470 College and working in business telecom/2008 financial crisis business ; UT Arlington 1710 Playing poker during college gambling ; poker ; Texas Hold 'Em ; Webber Kang 1859 Diversifying into real estate Beard Papa's ; real estate ; The Halal Guys 1952 Role of business in the community/Asian community Asian community ; business ; entrepreneur ; expansion ; fast casual ; Goldee's Barbecue ; growth ; mentor ; mom and pop ; Seven Leaves ; The Halal Guys ; trends 2361 Involvement with Asia Times Square Asia Times Square ; Asian community ; Asian grocery ; Asian restaurant ; community ; community hub ; cultue ; family ; food truck ; Grand Prairie ; grocery store ; Hong Kong Market ; hub ; Koreatown ; Matthew Loh ; mentor ; newspaper ; real estate ; Seven Leaves 2652 Changes in Asian food landscape Asian flavors ; Asian food ; omakase ; palate ; social media ; western palate 2743 Impact of social media photography ; pop ups ; social media ; The Halal Guys 2785 Reflections on the idea of &quot ; authenticity&quot ; American halal ; appropriation ; Asian-American food ; authentic ; authenticity ; Chinese restaurant ; food ; Irving ; Muslim ; P.F. Changs ; The Halal Guys 3103 Characteristics of the Asian community in North Texas airport ; Asian community ; California ; connection ; diverse ; diversity ; Sandoitchi 3279 Partnership with Sandoitchi &quot ; sando&quot ; pop-up expand ; expansion ; Goldee's Barbecue ; growth ; mentor ; Sandoitchi ; social media ; Uchi 3700 Events and cultural holidays Asia Times Square ; food trucks ; Ramadan 3764 Lessons and reflections on success and happiness Asian community ; business ; Catholic ; customers ; Dallas ; Our Lady of Fatima ; Vietnam ; Vietnam Plaza |00:00:04| Brody This is Betsy Brody. Today is April 26, 2022. I&#039 ; m interviewing for the first time Mr. Tony Nguyen. This interview is taking place in my home office in Richardson, Texas. This interview is possible thanks to the support of a Mellon/ACLS Community College Faculty Fellowship and is part of the project entitled &quot ; Digging In: How Food, Culture and Class Shape the Story of Asian Dallas.&quot ; Hi, Tony. Thank you for coming and sitting for this interview. Let&#039 ; s start out. Can you just tell me where and when you were born? |00:00:42| Nguyen Sure. I was born in Bedford, Texas, in 1983. |00:00:50| Brody What brought your family to Texas? |00:00:52| Nguyen What brought my family to Texas? My father came to Vietnam after the fall of Saigon in 1975. Initially, he actually came into California and quickly moved down to Texas. And since then, we&#039 ; ve been here. |00:01:10| Brody Did you move to Bedford? They moved to Bedford. |00:01:14| Nguyen Actually, originally, I think his first house was on Portman Avenue in Fort Worth, and eventually he was able to move to Bedford, Texas. |00:01:24| Brody Do you know what your dad was doing in Vietnam? Before? |00:01:28| Nguyen My father was...My father was in the Air Force. He was part of the the the pit crew. |00:01:39| Brody Great. And then once he got to Texas, what line of work did he get into? |00:01:47| That...That initially, he was a jack of many trades in Vietnam. I know that in California, before they came to Texas, he was in, he attempted auto sales. I believe that didn&#039 ; t work out too well. And so that&#039 ; s what actually drove them to Texas. From there, he just got a job and worked his way up to become a GM of a Church&#039 ; s Fried Chicken. And through working there and saving up, he saw the need for an Asian or Vietnamese grocer just because him, the family, their friends, everybody he knew that was coming over and pouring over. And there was a problem and he wanted to provide a solution. So that&#039 ; s how Vietnam Plaza came about. |00:02:33| Brody Oh, tell me about Vietnam Plaza. |00:02:35| Nguyen Vietnam Plaza. I would like to think that my father is the pioneer in DFW for Asian grocers. He was the first multi-unit Asian grocer-owner. Again, it was called Vietnam Plaza. He had, I believe it was four locations and they were just spread around the city. And that&#039 ; s how I was able to learn and speak Vietnamese, as a matter of fact. That was my daily babysitting club, if you will. |00:03:05| Brody Had...You mentioned he was at Church&#039 ; s for a little while, but how...Had he ever been involved in any kind of food oriented business before? |00:03:15| Nguyen Well, I can tell you from his treacherous journey. Well, I wouldn&#039 ; t say it was treacherous compared to a lot of other journeys I&#039 ; ve heard of people fleeing from Vietnam. But while he was in the Air Force, he was create...was able to create connections with pilots and in those relationships allowed him to board a plane when things got tough. And so before they actually got to America, they were in. Where is it? It slips my mind. I&#039 ; m going to get back to where they... they were in Guam. They had to...They stayed in Guam for about a year. And so I can say, honestly, that&#039 ; s when they got their restaurant exposure, because while Dad was in Guam helping out and fixing all the planes, hoping to hop on a plane to America, he also had brought his wife, Mom, and her siblings. And so they were actually...They ended up for a year selling food on the air base to all the the the Air Force members. |00:04:28| Brody Tell me your mom and dad&#039 ; s names. |00:04:30| Nguyen Frank Nguyen or Phan Quoc Nguyen and Mary Oanh Thi Nguyen. |00:04:38| Brody So do you? I mean, you were probably very young, but, you know, in the family, are there stories about sort of how they got, got the idea and executed building the Vietnam Plaza. |00:04:56| Nguyen My father. From what I&#039 ; ve learned, he was quite the entrepreneur even in Vietnam. You know, listening to people speak about him today, they&#039 ; ll always reminisce about him being the first and one of the only ones that they knew that had a motor vehicle. He had some bars, I hear. He had a very popular roller skating rink once upon a time. So it sounds like he was a social butterfly and also an entrepreneur kind of throughout life, and just hearing stories from even all my aunts and uncles and his siblings. He, he took on everybody&#039 ; s weight. |00:05:45| Brody So the business grew. Then if you had four locations of Vietnam Plaza. Was it all in the family? How did that happen? |00:05:54| Nguyen Mom ran a store, Dad ran a store, had an uncle run a store, and I had one of my brothers run a store. And, that&#039 ; s what, that&#039 ; s what we knew for about 20 some odd years. |00:06:07| Brody Who were the main customers? |00:06:12| Nguyen The Vietnamese community for sure certainly supported us. But then it became just again an Asian grocer. So we had pockets of everybody kind of come and just because of the different types of fresh fish that you could buy here versus there, things of that nature. |00:06:29| Brody Right. So it sounds like not just Vietnamese customers after a time and, you know, other Asian groups and were there also sort of native Texans? |00:06:42| Nguyen Oh, absolutely. And just again, we&#039 ; re in...Those stores were in very... what&#039 ; s the word? Diverse demographic areas. And so it was a hodgepodge. |00:06:58| Brody That&#039 ; s interesting. So these stores were in Fort Worth. |00:07:05| Nguyen Haltom City was his first. And then there was Carrollton and Dallas, and I think there was another Dallas location as well. |00:07:15| Brody Great. How large was the Vietnamese community when you, you know, when he, when your dad started the stores? |00:07:26| Nguyen Hmm. That&#039 ; s a good question. I wish I knew. I wish I knew population numbers, that one. I really can&#039 ; t tell you. Yeah. |00:07:32| Brody No, but was it small? |00:07:34| Nguyen I can certainly say it was small because it was it was basically the congregation, the Catholic congregation nearby, you know. When a church was formed, where there&#039 ; s a church, or where there&#039 ; s a church, as long as there&#039 ; s grocery, there can be civilization, you know. |00:07:52| Brody And that&#039 ; s that was it. So do you remember if the stores were, you know, like a place that maybe people came after church or congregated or? |00:08:03| Nguyen Oh, gosh. I mean, again, he was one of the pioneers, so there wasn&#039 ; t a lot of varieties and options to go visit. So if you wanted the spices or if you wanted the different cuts of fish that you couldn&#039 ; t get at Tom Thumb or Target or what have you, this is where you would go initially. |00:08:23| Brody Yeah. And how did he get the supplies? Where? Do you remember where he had suppliers ? |00:08:28| Nguyen Yeah, yeah, absolutely. He&#039 ; s got suppliers. I&#039 ; m actually still good friends with some of them. I pass it on to their sons. And so but a lot of these hubs are in California and Houston. So a lot of the stuff is imported from Asia into California and then from there distributed across the nation. |00:08:46| Brody Right. And that&#039 ; s...And so those relationships still exist for you? |00:08:49| Nguyen Oh, absolutely, for sure. |00:08:52| Brody So. |00:08:53| Nguyen Um, so I, I would like to think that. I try to stay connected with this world because it was my dad&#039 ; s and I guess the other, the all the other store owners still respect him. And so, you know, anytime I see any of the other grocery store owners, they&#039 ; ll make sure we&#039 ; ll always connect and say hi and have some conversation. |00:09:16| Brody Yeah. So your dad was first and it sounds like, you know, with the growth of the community that then suddenly, you know, there were more stores opening, you know, different owners that that you still have relationships with. But did your dad help those people as they were starting their stores or offer advice? |00:09:37| Nguyen I&#039 ; ve heard stories of business owners who are successful now and all of them, several of them will say, your dad helped me and guided me. He&#039 ; s the one that gave me the loan. Just a lot... You know, he played banker, advisor, friend, supporter, business partner. He wore a lot of hats. |00:09:57| Brody Yeah. |00:09:58| Nguyen I think we&#039 ; ll will continue to say that throughout the interview if it&#039 ; s about him. |00:10:02| Brody Yeah, that&#039 ; s well, that&#039 ; s you know, a lot of people would think that, you know, that another store opening up is competition. But it sounds like it was more, you know, mentoring and training. |00:10:15| Nguyen And I think the same way. I&#039 ; m also in the food, food industry and I always welcome synergy. I always welcome synergy. |00:10:25| Brody Yeah. Why? Why is that your philosophy? |00:10:28| Nguyen It&#039 ; s more options. You&#039 ; re not always going to be everybody&#039 ; s number one option, but if you&#039 ; re an option, you know you&#039 ; re now an option versus not being an option. |00:10:38| Brody So did you grow up working in the stores? |00:10:41| Nguyen Oh, yeah. |00:10:42| Brody Yeah. Tell me about what that was like. |00:10:44| Nguyen It was...I was there from 8 a.m. to about 9 to 10 p.m. typically. That&#039 ; s every summer and every weekend, Saturday and Sunday. And so, I mean, and of course, it&#039 ; d be cleaning up the place, picking up to make sure it&#039 ; s tidy, and then we&#039 ; re going to go and typically fill up every aisle, you know, face everything forward, which coincidentally now, you know, I&#039 ; m even teaching my sons when they walk into the store, they know to go push in every chair and they know to pick up all the trash and then turn every bottle forward. And they understand it just looks better. So I know this is going to be second nature to them, to you for sure. |00:11:29| Brody Do you remember what the biggest sellers were at Vietnam Plaza? |00:11:32| Nguyen Do I remember? I mean, fish sauce is huge. It goes in majority of dishes, fish sauce and oyster sauce. And rice. Goodness, rice. Everybody needs their bag of jasmine rice. |00:11:50| Brody Do you remember much about advertising? Did your, did, did your parents have to do much advertising? |00:11:57| Nguyen I don&#039 ; t recall seeing too many articles in newspapers or any mailers. I think it was all word of mouth. It&#039 ; s just, again, being one of the first and few Asian grocers. You know, people kind of talk about you and where to find these certain ingredients. |00:12:17| Brody In your recollection or just from family stories, what, if any, were the challenges that your family faced in, you know, that the early days of building? |00:12:31| Nguyen Mm hmm. What challenges that they face? Oh, gosh. I think everybody faces challenges. And no matter what time it is and any era. I know that. I know that there was always theft. Right? There was always insurance claims. When you have, you know, a thousand customers are walking in, somebody is going to act like they fell whether they did or not. And so I recall hearing a lot of those things happening pretty frequently. |00:13:08| Brody Any issues with sort of neighboring stores or the, you know, the neighborhoods that the stores were? |00:13:15| Nguyen You know, I mean, he brought, he brought the community together, if you will. I mean, people got what they needed there. And he was the happy man that greeted you at the door. Mom was the happy lady that greeted you at her door, depending on what store you went to. And so cleanliness and hospitality. I think that ended up rubbing off on me indirectly too. And never did I think I&#039 ; d be in the line of work that I&#039 ; m in now. |00:13:43| Brody Yeah. Tell me about that. What do you do? Tell me about your business. |00:13:48| Nguyen Well, right now, predominantly, my time is spent with the restaurants that we represent, which is The Halal Guys, a franchise from Manhattan, Seven Leaves Cafe, which is a coffee and tea concept from Orange County. I&#039 ; d like to also say that that was created by a family of immigrants that had fled and moved to California. And this is just something they all collectively created. It&#039 ; s not often that we get to hear that there was a Vietnamese creator of, in this realm, I guess in the in the coffee and tea realm. It&#039 ; s typically Taiwanese. |00:14:29| Brody Right. So, so those are both businesses that are founded, created, you know, by other people, and then you&#039 ; ve brought them into this area. Tell me how you decided to go that route as opposed to maybe starting your own restaurant from scratch. |00:14:52| Nguyen Sure. Restaurant talk. I chose The Halal Guys and Seven Leaves because of its simplicity. Of course, it has a- quite the following, but for me as an operator, I want to think of what is the easiest and best. You know, I don&#039 ; t want personally, I don&#039 ; t want to be like a Cheesecake Factory where there&#039 ; s a million things to offer. I just think that it&#039 ; s tough to master a million different things. And so, landing The Halal Guys, again, we chose that because there&#039 ; s literally only two entrees you can choose from- a sandwich or a platter. And so, I don&#039 ; t know. I think that it&#039 ; s just easier to execute when there&#039 ; s less to do in practice. |00:15:42| Brody And same with Seven Leaves. Was that a similar kind of logic that led you to... |00:15:49| Nguyen Yes, and a few other things. I don&#039 ; t think that they&#039 ; re your typical drink company. I love the way they are and who they are and what type of people they are as far as just being good humans. I like their philosophy. On every cup it says &quot ; Be the change you wish to see in the world&quot ; by Gandhi. And, being able to partner with somebody that aligns with your beliefs is rare. And I think that I did find a partner that, you know, I really love representing and just everything about them from the product to the people. |00:16:27| Brody That&#039 ; s great. So how, you know walk me through how you, you know, decide where to open a restaurant. |00:16:37| Nguyen Site selection. This is, this is the one thing I think many I&#039 ; m going to call it. I&#039 ; m going to just categorize it &quot ; &quot ; mom and pop&quot ; shop owners fail to truly focus on. They think that if they market well enough or if they have a good enough product, that people will come. I don&#039 ; t think most &quot ; mom and pop&quot ; shops should think that way. I believe that there&#039 ; s too many pockets in this city, especially nowadays, that&#039 ; s getting a diverse mix. So the question is, how are you going to get these people to your door? So when you ask me about site selection, you&#039 ; ve really got to know the density. You know, what is your target density? We need to know that there&#039 ; s customers around there. Otherwise, are you truly good enough for them to visit? And if so, how frequently are they going to visit? Demographics. You need to know who your customer base is. You really I mean, anybody. There&#039 ; s always going to be a predominant, you know, customer base, whatever it may be. And if that&#039 ; s what it is, that&#039 ; s who you should be by. And so I think that demographic plays a part. Visibility plays a huge part. We can get really technical when it comes to talking about like stories and development. Yeah, it&#039 ; s not so much history talk though, but I can go on and on about stories and. |00:18:09| Brody Just even thinking about, you know, what you brought up here. The sort of the difference between the types of stores that you&#039 ; re opening versus a &quot ; mom and pop&quot ; type shop like, you know what, what are your thoughts about the main differences between even just sort of this, the style of place. |00:18:33| Nguyen The successful brands and the successful business owners, they lead by the numbers. &quot ; Mom and pops&quot ; they probably just cook something really well. And so that&#039 ; s what they focus on. But they didn&#039 ; t control the labor that went into it. They maybe didn&#039 ; t control the cost that went into it. You open the business for business, not necessarily just to please people. And so on the business side, I think that &quot ; mom and pops&quot ; and what keeps them titled under that realm is that they haven&#039 ; t became a expert or professional at running the business behind, you know, the store. |00:19:19| Brody How did you discover your aptitude and interest for sort of scaling up. |00:19:26| Nguyen By wondering where is all my money? Selling a fortune and not having much to show for it? And by working backwards, we had different bookkeepers and accountants, and we paid for all of these services. And while they might have prepared, you know, the books. Was it truly accurate or something accurate enough for me to make big decisions on that could change these percentages. It wasn&#039 ; t, you know, in hindsight, the best bookkeeping is either done in-house or somebody that knows that business well that maybe has interest in that company, not just another account for an accountant. |00:20:19| Brody Walk me through your story, then. So you were working at your parents&#039 ; stores and then after high school, what did you do? |00:20:31| Nguyen Oh, I was working with my parents all into my teens. As I got a little older, I was hoping that they would pay me, start to pay me. So I made a request and, and of course, Dad said, &quot ; Sure. Sure.&quot ; And when the day came and I was supposed to get paid, I remember he paid me pennies on the dollar. And so I told him I asked my uncle for a job, who owns Lisa&#039 ; s Fried Chicken, which he&#039 ; s got 30 locations here in DFW. That was Dad&#039 ; s little brother. Earlier, I talked about Church&#039 ; s Fried Chicken. He was actually we&#039 ; ll call it the, the predecessor, the person that took dad&#039 ; s GM position at Church&#039 ; s while Dad went on to open Vietnam Plaza. My uncle, Uncle Tom, Tom Nguyen, then took over Church&#039 ; s Fried Chicken, and probably shortly thereafter, Dad was able to save enough to help him open his first store, which they called it Lisa&#039 ; s Fried Chicken. And as I mentioned before, there&#039 ; s about 30 of them in Tarrant County now. |00:21:40| Brody Tell me about Lisa&#039 ; s Fried Chicken. So, first of all, your Uncle Tom and your dad both had their experience at Church&#039 ; s. Was, is it that style of chicken? |00:21:53| Nguyen Yeah, it&#039 ; s I call it, you know, I compare it to Church&#039 ; s Fried Chicken or Popeyes or KFC. It&#039 ; s just fast fried, fast food, fried chicken. But I think what sets them apart is the marinades and the seasonings. Unlike Church&#039 ; s and Kentucky and Popeye&#039 ; s, his chicken is marinated overnight. And so that&#039 ; s what makes it really juicy and flavorful. And their prices typically are more competitive than the big chains. And so he&#039 ; s been able to really thrive across Fort Worth, which is being able to serve a delicious product at a really good price. |00:22:33| Brody That&#039 ; s great. Did you ever yourself work at a Lisa&#039 ; s? |00:22:36| Nguyen I did. So when dad wasn&#039 ; t willing to pay, I had to jump over to the uncle who was willing to pay. So I recall being 13. I was, and when I was 13, I started working Lisa&#039 ; s Fried Chicken until probably 18. But that was a good experience because I watched him grow units as well. You know, I never...I was just sent out to typically stock the stores. If somebody opened a store, they&#039 ; d just send me there and say, &quot ; Alright, fill up the shelves.&quot ; And so I&#039 ; d spend a few days just doing that nonstop. I never realized it would be a part of life and my life later on. |00:23:14| Brody Yeah. What were the main lessons that you learned back then from that experience? |00:23:21| Nguyen Organization. Organization is key. Really maximizing your space. And everything just always has to look and feel right. You know, I always, then and now, my uncle and my father always they wanted me to see as a customer. |00:23:46| Brody That kind of ties back to what you said earlier when you were talking about your dad, but we were talking about hospitality. What is your, sort of vision for, you know, what it feels like to be a customer in one of your stores? |00:24:02| Nguyen It should be an experience at the very least, even if it&#039 ; s just a simple greeting. As store owners, we can&#039 ; t control too much what&#039 ; s going on outside of the four walls. But hopefully you&#039 ; ve got a grasp of what&#039 ; s going on inside of the four walls of your store, which is, again, the cleanliness, the hospitality, the fresh product or whatever it is that you&#039 ; re pushing or selling. |00:24:30| Brody So. You did not get paid by your dad. So you went to your uncle, to Lisa&#039 ; s, learned some lessons there. Then after that, what was the next step in your path? |00:24:42| Nguyen What was the next step? My brothers. My brothers. I&#039 ; m the youngest of six. And I had three older brothers that owned a business telecom company. And at their highest point, they employed about 96, 97 people as well. They were selling business telecommunications, phone systems across the nation. And then in 2008, when everything tanked. Then it was that they were the unfortunate ones that went with it. And so and that taught me a lot too, that. That taught me not to put all my apples in one basket. That&#039 ; s why I diversified the way I have. I watched my brothers lose. One of the oldest one had the Ferrari and the million dollar mansion and the boat. He had all that and got, you know, after 2008 he didn&#039 ; t have any of that. |00:25:40| Brody Right. So your lesson was to diversify. |00:25:44| Nguyen I mean, one- Be humble. Two- diversify. And three is just you can&#039 ; t be comfortable. You know, I got a lot of lessons from looking in hindsight and seeing how they they were working. |00:26:00| Brody And how did you diversify? |00:26:04| Nguyen How did I diversify? Goodness. I mean to just...I mean. If restaurants went down, I would still have an income. Right. We dabble with real estate. We dabble with crypto. We dabble with a lot of other different things. And so, I don&#039 ; t know, like Dad, I&#039 ; m busybody. I can&#039 ; t stay still. I think that just having worked with all these different people from my uncle or my father to my uncle to my brothers. Seeing adversity, seeing growth, seeing change. Some being in the ghetto. Some being in the business world. Obstacles are a dime a dozen. You just got to learn how to manage that and you can do anything. If you can&#039 ; t handle the obstacles. You create actually more obstacles and walls instead of trying to be resilient or trying to conquer. |00:27:02| Brody So it sounds like you learned a lot on the job and just sort of observing what was going on. |00:27:08| Nguyen I learned it through observing. Sure. I don&#039 ; t think I ever had a one on one conversation with my dad, with my uncle, or with any of my brothers regarding business. |00:27:17| Brody Did you study business? |00:27:19| Nguyen No. I dropped out of college after the first year. I realized I would rather just work. |00:27:24| Brody Yeah. What? Where were you? |00:27:28| Nguyen Where was I? I went to UT Arlington. |00:27:33| Brody And you decided that learning on the job was probably more your speed? |00:27:37| Nguyen I graduated high school early, as a matter of fact. I got bored and I wanted to go make some money. I&#039 ; d rather go to work and figure something out. You know, high school was fun. I loved it, but I had enough of it. And so I took night courses to leave early and then immediately went to UTA and TCC and filled up. I mean. I recall getting A&#039 ; s in every class, but I knew it wasn&#039 ; t for me. I was like, I don&#039 ; t need this piece of paper. |00:28:05| Brody Right. So what did you do instead? |00:28:08| Nguyen I went to go work for my brothers. I went to go work for my brothers again. At that point, they were selling a little over $1,000,000 in phone systems a month. And so that gave me the taste of like, I guess you could call it a corporate world, you know, offices and cubicles and phone calls and different departments. |00:28:29| Brody And then the next jump was into operating restaurants. |00:28:34| Nguyen I actually started playing poker. |00:28:36| Brody Oh. Tell me about poker. |00:28:38| Nguyen Started playing poker. Well, I wanted to go out and work and make more money. I found myself at that time, Texas Hold&#039 ; em started taking off and I was playing. That was also during the first year of college and...I remember just always playing and winning. And so one of my cousin&#039 ; s boyfriends, Webber Kang, was an amateur pro at the time. And so his life fascinated me. So I asked him, &quot ; Can I just go around and watch you?&quot ; You know? And here I was only playing $20, 20 bucks, 20 bucks, and he&#039 ; s doing the two, three, four or $5,000 tournaments. And I&#039 ; m just like, I mean, &quot ; I don&#039 ; t even have that much money?&quot ; But I would love to watch. And so I watched him for about 6 to 8 months, and it was one day when he asked- he had won a big pot- and he said, &quot ; Hey, you want to play? I&#039 ; ll buy you in.&quot ; And he gave me my first $2,000. |00:29:34| Brody How did that go? |00:29:36| Nguyen I won. I won. I set goals in my mind. You know, I want to be the guy that can lose it all. Control is big too. Control is really big. And I think I got that from my father. He never raised his voice. He never got angry. He just thought about the problem and how to fix it. And that was that. I think that&#039 ; s how I&#039 ; m able to deal with life. This is problem and solution. That&#039 ; s it. Don&#039 ; t dwell over it. |00:30:04| Brody Did the poker experience offer you anything that comes in handy now? Tell me about. |00:30:11| Nguyen Absolutely. It allowed me to be aggressive. We&#039 ; ll call it...Excuse the terminology, but &quot ; it grew a set of balls&quot ; would be how I would describe that. You know, willing to gamble and risk a lot for a high reward. You know, I think that gave me the edge in the business world. People may describe me as too aggressive, but I think that I turned out just fine. You know? I think I could be doing more, so I don&#039 ; t even think I&#039 ; m that aggressive. But again, I think the high stakes gambling allows me to push the envelope where some would swallow and flinch. I would kind of smile and be ready. |00:30:56| Brody Interesting. So the businesses that you have now. Is it The Halal Guys and Seven Leaves? Or is there more that you&#039 ; re involved in? |00:31:07| Nguyen Yeah, there is. |00:31:08| Brody Yeah, tell me about that. |00:31:09| Nguyen We have a Japanese bakery called Beard Papa&#039 ; s. That&#039 ; s also a franchise. That&#039 ; s in Frisco. We are currently working on an industrial park in Kennedale, Texas. That&#039 ; s going to be...I feel that in business and everything that I&#039 ; ve come across, from watching my parents and watching my uncle transition now from stores to real estate and just networking. It&#039 ; s all pointed me towards real estate. And so I had to kind of see and learn. And so now we are attempting our first it&#039 ; s 180,000 square foot flex space industrial park. |00:31:55| Brody Wow. And you&#039 ; ve never done anything like that before? |00:32:00| Nguyen I mean, well, I&#039 ; ve built now almost ten stores. I&#039 ; ve worked with architects, I&#039 ; ve worked with engineers, I&#039 ; ve worked with the planners, I&#039 ; ve worked with all of them, and I&#039 ; ve stood next to the GC to build all of them. So. |00:32:16| Brody So you&#039 ; ve gathered... |00:32:17| Nguyen I would naturally kind of just learned a lot of this and now I just got to take the next step, which is be the one turning the dirt, not just and working with the trades. And so... |00:32:30| Brody That&#039 ; s great. That&#039 ; s really interesting. In the businesses, the food oriented businesses that you have, what do you see, you know, your role in the community or those businesses&#039 ; role in the communities that they&#039 ; re in? |00:32:44| Nguyen Well, for the Asian community. I&#039 ; m hoping that I can show everybody. It&#039 ; s possible. I&#039 ; m still young. I am trying to create awareness of what I&#039 ; m doing, not for my own gain, but again, to to let people know. You just got to focus and stop saying you don&#039 ; t have enough time. You know, everything&#039 ; s effort driven. And if I can just be an example and show it and talk about it and make it happen, then that&#039 ; s what that&#039 ; s what I would love to do, you know. Like a while ago, I told you, I went to Goldee&#039 ; s Barbecue, and I learned that it was Asian owned guys. I was so excited. And I told them, guys, if you want to talk numbers, if you if you&#039 ; re, you know, I understand you&#039 ; re busy, but if you want to talk business, come talk to me. I would love to see you scale or I&#039 ; d love to just see you succeed. I think there&#039 ; s...There&#039 ; s not enough. There&#039 ; s too many people taking high risk when they should at least take the time and give the effort to learn more about it and what it is that they&#039 ; re trying to accomplish. |00:33:55| Brody What do you think, some of the, I guess, barriers that people who have, you know, maybe a &quot ; mom and pop&quot ; shop.. |00:34:04| Nguyen Exposure. Exposure. They don&#039 ; t know any better. |00:34:08| Brody Okay. So the... |00:34:12| Nguyen Or, they don&#039 ; t want to put out the effort to make it better. |00:34:16| Brody Right. And do you think there&#039 ; s a...unwillingness maybe to to go bigger for fear of maybe the, you know, the product changing or the experience changing or something like that? |00:34:36| Nguyen What&#039 ; s the question? |00:34:37| Brody Well, I&#039 ; m just thinking about like a lot of the restaurant owners that I&#039 ; ve been talking to are, you know, a single, you know, they have a single restaurant that&#039 ; s maybe a neighborhood favorite or, you know, it&#039 ; s you know, it&#039 ; s one special thing. And I wonder if, you know, when you talk to people who have a restaurant like that or a store like that, if, you know, what are they worried about in terms of growing? |00:35:08| Nguyen Well, a lot of these probably these owners are probably owner operators, first of all. There lies a big hurdle in itself. How, can you truly think about expansion when you&#039 ; re so busy being tied into the system that you created, which probably isn&#039 ; t seamless? I&#039 ; m not saying anybody&#039 ; s seamless, but there&#039 ; s a right process and there&#039 ; s certain parameters you have to be in within for percentages. It&#039 ; s questionable where they&#039 ; re at or if they even know how to come up to that value. Does that answer? |00:35:47| Brody Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. It&#039 ; s a, there&#039 ; s a lot that, a lot to learn. |00:35:53| Nguyen Oh, gosh. But see again, sure, you might want to think about scaling, but now that you&#039 ; ve tied yourself into the system and you have to cover for the manager, or you see that the portioning is not right...You know, a lot of owner operators too, aren&#039 ; t able to delegate as easy. That&#039 ; s one big reason why a lot of people can&#039 ; t scale either. They don&#039 ; t trust. And I get it. It&#039 ; s hard to. |00:36:22| Brody Right. Especially when it&#039 ; s something you&#039 ; ve built from scratch. |00:36:24| Nguyen In order to scale, you must be able to delegate and trust that whoever you have in that position will execute and sell. |00:36:35| Brody So do you have any explicitly Asian oriented businesses? |00:36:42| Nguyen Explicitly Asian oriented. Only Asians come in? |00:36:47| Brody No. Or just where the sort of the character of the business itself is, you know, something Asian specific, like Asian food or Asian... |00:36:59| Nguyen I mean, The Halal Guys sells halal food and that&#039 ; s Mediterranean. Seven Leaves, all of our products I would say would hit a Vietnamese palate. |00:37:11| Brody Yeah. What does that mean to you? |00:37:13| Nguyen What does it mean to me? Well, we have certain desserts and fruits and drinks that I typically don&#039 ; t taste or have anywhere else. And so I can kind of experience that at Seven Leaves. And we get that often from a lot of our patrons. It reminds them of different desserts from their countries as well. |00:37:34| Brody Yeah. How much in sort of communicating those tastes and you know, like what you&#039 ; re doing at Seven Leaves, for example, do you, do you feel like you&#039 ; re educating the customers who come in? |00:37:49| Nguyen Oh, gosh, I well, I also love Seven Leaves because of their name. You know, as a business owner, I want something that will be accepted by all cultures and nationalities. And in my opinion, when you have certain names that are very Asian, like you&#039 ; re just you might not draw other nationalities. And so Seven Leaves being more generic, you know, I knew it could hit a Caucasian and then Hispanics, what have you. |00:38:24| Brody Back to the numbers you were talking about earlier. Yes. What do you think are some trends in the market as relate to Asian food today? Since you have an eye on sort of the big picture. |00:38:39| Nguyen The trend right now? Well, I can tell you, everybody is trying to create the real quick QSR type concepts, the quick service restaurants where you&#039 ; re probably going to pick a lot of things in front of you, like it was fresh and you assemble that yourself. That certainly seems to be taking off. And it&#039 ; s the speed of service versus a sit down. It seems like people don&#039 ; t want to sit anywhere that long anymore. |00:39:09| Brody Why do you think that is? |00:39:10| Nguyen I mean, no idea. There&#039 ; s is there&#039 ; s too many things to preoccupy a human. |00:39:21| Brody So I know you&#039 ; re involved with the Asia Times Square. Can you tell me about that project? |00:39:27| Nguyen Sure. Asia Times Square. I got to befriend Matthew Loh, who...who has been an inspiration and a mentor to me as well. He was able to...He has and now controls a couple of the Hong Kong supermarkets in DFW. He&#039 ; s built shopping centers all around them. And so he&#039 ; s actually one person that I&#039 ; m learning a lot of real estate from and just getting mentorship from as well. He is focused on bringing the community together and connecting cultures. And so I really love being a part of Asia Times Square. We do the marketing for Asia Times Square as well, and our Seven Leaves drive through location is also at Asia Times Square. I just believe in his passion of really connecting cultures. |00:40:28| Brody How is that development going to do that? What is it? Tell me about the development. |00:40:32| Nguyen Oh, gosh. It&#039 ; s got so many different restaurants and businesses. It&#039 ; s, it&#039 ; s a full blown mall slash shopping center slash grocer. He&#039 ; s built a big outdoor plaza that can host big outdoor movies and a lot of food truck, food truck nights, have a lot of different vendors from being Thai to Laotian to Cambodian to Vietnamese to Korean. And so there seems to be an event going on every month out there. And so he&#039 ; s working it. It&#039 ; s actually his focus. And it&#039 ; s, and it&#039 ; s, it&#039 ; s coming together. I think, in my opinion, Asia Times Square would be the busiest Asian center in DFW in the years to come, for years to come. |00:41:22| Brody Where is it located? |00:41:23| Nguyen It&#039 ; s in Grand Prairie, Texas. |00:41:25| Brody So. And he envisions it, and you envision it as being a hub for the community? |00:41:33| Nguyen Absolutely. Absolutely. Right now, the other hub would be Old Denton Highway. You know, both sides. There&#039 ; s a big Korean-dense area and then on the other side of the highway would be a more mixed Asian-dense center, where, in my opinion, most people congregate. I can say that&#039 ; s probably got the most foot traffic of any center in DFW. Asian, Asian-wise. |00:42:02| Brody Yeah. What is a typical, let&#039 ; s say, a Saturday at one of these centers? What does that feel like and look like? |00:42:11| Nguyen The hunt for parking is ridiculous, if that can explain anything. You know? But I mean, what does it feel like? It feels great because you can have you can have food from so many different types of countries that are represented over there and then fulfill yourself with all sorts of sweets and goods. So... |00:42:33| Brody Is it typically pretty family oriented? |00:42:36| Nguyen It is very family oriented. |00:42:39| Brody In Asia Times Square, for example, or these other centers that you&#039 ; re talking about, you know, obviously, there&#039 ; s a lot of food. Are there other businesses included there that, you know, that maybe help people who just moved here from, let&#039 ; s say, Korea or Vietnam or somewhere like that, to... |00:43:03| Nguyen I can&#039 ; t say that there&#039 ; s any specific businesses geared for that there. I mean, there&#039 ; s, there is bank, there&#039 ; s a couple of banks, there&#039 ; s furniture stores, there&#039 ; s novelty stores, there&#039 ; s a clothing store. It&#039 ; s pretty mixed use. |00:43:19| Brody So lots of different things. I was just thinking back in the earliest days, like probably with your dad&#039 ; s store even, you know, things like job boards and video rentals of movies from back home and things like that. Newspapers were things that, you know, people came to those grocers or markets to, you know, to buy their food, but also to have a little connection. Just wondering if the modern version of that in Asia Times Square or places like that, includes those kind of, you know, newspapers, video rental, things like that? |00:43:58| Nguyen There&#039 ; s definitely there&#039 ; s definitely the the bulletin board or everybody sticks their card or their fliers or what have you... |00:44:12| Brody Talking about, kind of switching gears here about food in general, about Asian food in the Metroplex, what are some changes that you&#039 ; ve noticed in, you know, since you were involved from the beginning? |00:44:30| Nguyen The diversity, the willingness of non-Asians&#039 ; palates to explore. And just the power of social media introducing it to them and creating, you know, a curiosity or a desire. That&#039 ; s certainly helped. |00:44:49| Brody Now, talking about palates, especially non-Asian palates. You know, what are some examples of changes in that that you&#039 ; ve noticed yourself. |00:45:02| Nguyen I personally grew up in Grapevine-Colleyville, Texas, which is 95% Caucasian. And so, you know, I grew up with all of them and I know what they would and wouldn&#039 ; t eat. And, back then they wouldn&#039 ; t eat it. Now they probably would eat it. And this is from a variety of just from noodles to seafood to raw foods and, you know, omakase type stuff, things like that. I think people are more adventurous or less standoffish. |00:45:38| Brody Yeah. Why? |00:45:39| Nguyen I don&#039 ; t know why. Maybe social media. |00:45:42| Brody Yeah. So in your experience, what are the key ways that social media has impacted people&#039 ; s thinking about... |00:45:51| Nguyen People eat with their eyes. People eat with their eyes. So, I mean, as long as you can purvey the message that it is really good or put out enough effort to just get the food in there in their mouth somehow. Yeah, we used to do a lot of samplings and random pop ups just to give away food. And it wouldn&#039 ; t be a full portion, but it would be, you know, enough for you to understand what we were about. And I think that&#039 ; s what&#039 ; s driven our catering business for The Halal Guys. |00:46:20| Brody Oh, really? Yeah. That&#039 ; s interesting. On the question of authenticity, right? That&#039 ; s a it&#039 ; s a prickly, prickly concept when we&#039 ; re talking about, you know, foods from other cultures and, you know, and what is perceived as authentic, where what are your feelings around that whole idea? |00:46:46| Nguyen What is authentic? I think that&#039 ; s, that&#039 ; s....the definition, I think it&#039 ; s kind of lost. I think. If you ask, is this an authentic dish? I mean, at what period are you talking about? What date and time are you from? You know, because I know that everything changes. There&#039 ; s certain ways to make basic dishes that everybody eats. I don&#039 ; t have any restaurant that would sell those types of dishes. I don&#039 ; t think there&#039 ; s lots of restaurants that thrive on the at home pots that mom always has on the stove. I think, I think that&#039 ; s a tricky one to ask or say just because it&#039 ; s more or less &quot ; Is it good and fresh?&quot ; Not &quot ; Is it authentic?&quot ; What do you mean, &quot ; Is it authentic?&quot ; I don&#039 ; t know. That&#039 ; s. That&#039 ; s a tough one for me. |00:47:48| Brody Yeah, for sure. I think it&#039 ; s... |00:47:51| Nguyen I can&#039 ; t connect with &quot ; authentic.&quot ; |00:47:53| Brody Yeah. I mean, and it&#039 ; s...It comes up because there are a lot of people.... |00:48:00| Nguyen I can tell you, a lot of people will say &quot ; This is not authentic, you know, halal food.&quot ; |00:48:07| Brody Right. And what&#039 ; s your answer to that? |00:48:09| Nguyen We&#039 ; re not trying to say, well, we were never in the Middle East, nor was the brand, you know, the operators, the original owners were from Europe or Egypt, I mean, and. And no...We are, we like to call ourselves American Halal. If you&#039 ; re asking me, are you authentic? All right, so then. And that&#039 ; s how I came to my answer earlier, is because then ask well, &quot ; What is American Halal?&quot ; Because that never existed. |00:48:38| Brody New category. |00:48:39| Nguyen Right. So to me, it&#039 ; s authentic. We&#039 ; re the first to say we&#039 ; re American Halal. |00:48:44| Brody Yeah, I mean, that&#039 ; s a thing to think about. I mean, initially, right? You saw, you know, people being introduced to new cuisines and, you know, through, you know, a taste of this or and then there was, you know, a kind of a broadening of the palate, maybe like with, you know, fusion cuisine. And so it sounds like what you&#039 ; re saying is this is a different category, an innovation that is particularly American. So do you think that that kind of logic can be applied to, you know, not just The Halal Guys, but, you know, other types of especially Asian food. |00:49:31| Nguyen You have to ask that again. |00:49:31| Brody Yeah, no, it just. Just wondering if there&#039 ; s, like, Asian, like, Asian-American food that you would characterize as, like, different category than Asian food or, you know, different category than Vietnamese food. |00:49:44| Nguyen Sure. I mean, you have. What is the one? That, that Chinese restaurant that&#039 ; s been around? P.F. Chang&#039 ; s. Is that authentic? I mean, they sell day and night. They&#039 ; re doing great. Is that authentic? You know, as long as you have a product that people like and you, you&#039 ; re creating an experience and you&#039 ; re executing. That is...How important is authenticity? |00:50:12| Brody Yeah, that&#039 ; s an interesting thing to think about. Right. Then on the flip side of that, like the idea of appropriation. Right. That&#039 ; s another sticky concept that comes up a lot in when we talk about food from other cultures. And I think in in your case in particular, because you&#039 ; re, you know operating restaurants that are all over the place, you know, that are, you know, based in California or based in New York or whatever. How, you know, how do you or do you come into any kind of criticism for... |00:50:51| Nguyen And I mean, of all the brands we represent, only The Halal Guys. Just because they&#039 ; ll ask me, are you Muslim? And why are you selling halal food? |00:51:01| Brody Right. Right. And how do you respond? |00:51:05| Nguyen I tell them I love their food. I love halal food. And I tell them the...Why I enjoy halal food and they don&#039 ; t have too much more of resistance afterwards. A lot of Indians initially in Irving, because I lived in Irving and I was looking for a site, different sites. They, they were really serious about why are you doing it? You know? |00:51:30| Brody Do you think it matters? |00:51:32| Nguyen No, no, no. Not at all. Not at all. Again, if you can really just execute, do whatever you need to do. |00:51:42| Brody Yeah. If you could use just a couple of words to describe to somebody who&#039 ; s not from here, the Asian community in North Texas, what would you say? |00:52:10| Nguyen I&#039 ; d say we&#039 ; re only a couple of steps behind California. Contrary to people&#039 ; s belief of us being far behind. We have quite a lot of people here. As a matter of fact, East Coast, West Coast Asians are all pouring here. Amongst everybody else as well. I think we got a nice hot pot of mixed, a mixed community of Asians. We have it all and, and the young, yet the younger generation for example Koreans don&#039 ; t really mix with Chinese and others or you know, a lot of those barriers are being broken down right now in modern day. |00:52:53| Brody Yeah. Why do you think they&#039 ; re being broken down or how? |00:52:57| Nguyen Again, just a lot of these venues and centers and music groups and, you know, anime, it&#039 ; s just, it&#039 ; s opening the world&#039 ; s eyes, you know. |00:53:08| Brody Built those connections. |00:53:09| Nguyen Right. |00:53:12| Brody A lot of people who have businesses, especially food oriented businesses, say that one big factor in Dallas that helps is the airport. Does the- having that DFW airport and having it be sort of a hub make any difference in your operations? |00:53:32| Nguyen I don&#039 ; t feel like I get...I know a lot of people will go to The Halal Guys if they used to frequent New York and now they have an opportunity to try it outside of New York. Same for Seven Leaves if they&#039 ; ve only ever had in California and they&#039 ; re from the East Coast. At least now you can get it from Texas. I can&#039 ; t...I would never definitively say &quot ; Yes. The airport carries us.&quot ; I would say the airport is amazing. We did consider putting The Halal Guys in there, and then COVID had happened. So a lot of those talks had died. But the airport is quite a generator for those that are in it indeed. |00:54:16| Brody Or even, you know, people say getting fresh fish, for example, you know. |00:54:22| Nguyen It&#039 ; s all flown in so you can pick it up over there. Yes. I&#039 ; m not in that. |00:54:26| Brody Yeah. Not doing any fish right now. |00:54:29| Nguyen No, no. If I did...Sandoitchi is the last project that I do that&#039 ; s going to have anything to do with food. |00:54:37| Brody Really? Well, tell me about that project. |00:54:40| Nguyen Oh, Sandoitchi. Sandoitchi is a Japanese &quot ; sandos&quot ; concept. They create sandwiches, desirable sandwiches, that look good. And they&#039 ; ve got a great marketing team that&#039 ; s been able to truly spread their awareness and creates a lot of engagement. Anyhow, these guys have been just popping up for the last two years and throughout Houston, Dallas, and California. I reached out to them probably within the first two or three months of when they started, and I had really liked what they were doing. So I called a meeting and I asked them, &quot ; Hey, you know, if you guys ever want to scale and go to the brick and mortar side, please call me. Consider me as a partner.&quot ; That didn&#039 ; t work out. That just wasn&#039 ; t their direction. They continued to thrive and continue to pop up and build their name. And during those two years, I was I was still a sideline cheerleader. I would always call and text and say, &quot ; Amazing, great job. I can&#039 ; t believe it.&quot ; You know, I was their supporter regardless. And so when they came when it came time for brick and mortar, they they only considered me. |00:55:57| Brody That&#039 ; s great. It&#039 ; s a good relationship. |00:55:59| Nguyen Yeah, I think you have to nurture all relationships, especially the ones that you want to keep. |00:56:06| Brody Right. So tell me about the sandwiches. |00:56:08| Nguyen Oh, gosh, sandos. There&#039 ; s the, the main the head curator and the creator, his name is Stevie and he&#039 ; s been with a lot of different restaurants. His last restaurant was with Uchi. And so, you know, he&#039 ; s got a really creative culinary skill and eye and knack for things. And just the way he&#039 ; s able to pair different types of foods, you know, that you don&#039 ; t usually think about. Like, for example, today they had a Sandoitchi collaboration with Goldee&#039 ; s Barbecue, who&#039 ; s one number one smoker in Texas for a couple of years now. One would think, how in the world can these two kind of fuse. And lo and behold, they did it. The line was out of the street today, this morning. And they&#039 ; re just creative. They were able to pair with a hot brand and use that brand&#039 ; s expertise in preparing meats. And then Sando was able to bring in quality meats like Wagyus, and allow these professional meat cookers to prepare it for the sandwiches. So it&#039 ; s just, it&#039 ; s a twist on sandwiches that you don&#039 ; t usually get. But it is artisan made. It&#039 ; s there&#039 ; s nothing what&#039 ; s the word? Mass produced about any of their products. You know that you had a special sandwich that was prepared by somebody that knew what they were doing. |00:57:46| Brody Yeah. And. Social media has been instrumental. |00:57:52| Nguyen Social media has propelled them to the stars. |00:57:53| Brody Tell me about their story and how it ties in with what we were talking about with social media. |00:57:59| Nguyen Oh, gosh. I mean, again, we&#039 ; re, we&#039 ; re saying that the different, the different cultures are mixing, right? Because there is more awareness, there&#039 ; s more social media, there&#039 ; s more curiosity, there&#039 ; s less walls to have to jump over. And so, I mean, these guys are just really aggressive and, again, creative on the content that they&#039 ; re able to bring out. They do pop ups that sell out within minutes, you know, 50, 60,000 sandwiches in 40 minutes or less. Like, that&#039 ; s their capacity. It&#039 ; s all we can make. I&#039 ; m like &quot ; Geez. Within minutes.&quot ; And so, there is there is certainly a cult following to these sando sandwiches from Sandoitchi. And I&#039 ; m excited because again they&#039 ; re connecting with me finally to do their first brick and mortar. And so we&#039 ; re going to create I think it&#039 ; ll be Dallas-Fort Worth&#039 ; s first Japanese convenience store that specializes in sandos. |00:59:02| Brody Oh, that&#039 ; s really interesting. Where is that going to be and what will it be like in your vision? |00:59:07| Nguyen Well, I can tell you it&#039 ; s going to be in Dallas. I can&#039 ; t be too specific yet, but I feel that it&#039 ; ll be a, it&#039 ; s going to be on an endcap corner at an intersection. It&#039 ; s going to be a real sleek, trendy, simple store with just a lot of concrete and metal with curated Japanese music that&#039 ; s going to be more upbeat. So you&#039 ; re going to feel, you know, kind of like you&#039 ; re in a, in an Asian, in the Asian, in the Asian scene. Just based on the music and the products that you see, because we want to, again, be a convenience store. We want to specialize in the sandwiches, but you&#039 ; re still see your Japanese candies and chips and junk food and stuff of that nature. |00:59:51| Brody Interesting. Will there be a sit down element? |00:59:55| Nguyen No. There&#039 ; s not going to be sit down. |00:59:56| Brody It&#039 ; s more takeout. |00:59:57| Nguyen Mm hmm. |00:59:59| Brody That&#039 ; s sounds great and really interesting. And I think, like you said, kind of capitalizing on... |01:00:05| Nguyen I&#039 ; m excited for this one because I am not a franchisee to the brand. You know, I&#039 ; m a partner of the, of the creators of the brand. And so I get to experience their creativeness. |01:00:19| Brody Yeah. What does that mean to you to, to be a partner as opposed to a franchisee of the brand? |01:00:25| Nguyen I mean, first of all, I don&#039 ; t have to pay royalties. That&#039 ; s a big plus. You know, being a franchisee, you have to pay royalties. And I get it. You got to pay the piper. You got to pay to play. But now I don&#039 ; t get to be creative with the being a franchisee. I get to do and say what they tell me to. As a matter of fact. And so with Sandoitchi, it&#039 ; s we can get creative, we can have different type of collaborations. We can, the team can have fun. We&#039 ; re trying to, you know, execute. |01:01:03| Brody Do you think, and maybe you can&#039 ; t say this yet, do you think, do you see growth beyond that, beyond that one store? |01:01:11| Nguyen For Sandoitchi? Absolutely. Absolutely. And that&#039 ; s why I was brought onto the team. I&#039 ; m actually one of my roles is to create the SOP, the standard operating procedures book in order to scale. |01:01:27| Brody So it sounds like a lot goes into these decisions. And, you know... |01:01:32| Nguyen Oh gosh. Yes. |01:01:33| Brody Yeah. |01:01:34| Nguyen There&#039 ; s lots to do if you decide to do it. |01:01:37| Brody Yeah. In any of these businesses that you&#039 ; re involved in. Are there, you know, special things that that are done for cultural holidays, events? |01:01:54| Nguyen Yeah. I mean, Ramadan was just around the corner. We gave deals out for after 9 p.m. We&#039 ; re always trying to do something for the Asian community. |01:02:06| Brody Connect. You know, I think you mentioned at, Asia Times Square that, that there&#039 ; s something going on, events going on every week. What type of events, typically? |01:02:17| Nguyen Oh, gosh, this is an event to go to whoever is listening to this if Asia Times Square is still around. But I mean, they have performers on stage. They&#039 ; ll have 10 to 15 different food trucks that are serving. They&#039 ; ve got live music. They&#039 ; ve ; s just, it&#039 ; s just a nice outdoor venue, that is...There&#039 ; s nothing like it in Dallas-Fort Worth. |01:02:44| Brody So just sort of nearing the end of our interview here, what, when you look back over your life and your experience, you know, starting with Vietnam Plaza and, you know, into what you&#039 ; re doing right now, what are some reflections or lessons that you would say you&#039 ; ve gathered over the years? |01:03:10| Nguyen Gosh. Love and effort. That&#039 ; s all it takes to succeed and to be happy. |01:03:23| Brody That&#039 ; s great. So that&#039 ; s the advice that you would give to people who are starting out. |01:03:28| Nguyen As a business owner, it depends on how far they&#039 ; re willing to take love and effort. You know, it sounds simple, but I can give you examples. Love. Love your customer. If you walked into my store and maybe I looked at you, maybe I nodded, or maybe I said &quot ; Hi or welcome in.&quot ; What&#039 ; s the difference if I said it with a love? You know, eye contact, the genuine smile. It doesn&#039 ; t even have to be fast, but with love. It was completely different. So while I say or you say, that&#039 ; s it. I think it&#039 ; s really big. |01:04:12| Brody Yeah. Yeah. And what about effort? |01:04:15| Nguyen I mean, that&#039 ; s equally important. None of us have to be a genius. We just have to be willing to outwork and work it, and it&#039 ; ll fall into place. Too many people won&#039 ; t go the distance, so they won&#039 ; t, they won&#039 ; t be yielding the result that they were searching for or longing for. |01:04:37| Brody That&#039 ; s good advice. Well, thank you very much for sharing your story and your experiences. Is there anything that I didn&#039 ; t ask you that you&#039 ; d like to include or talk about? |01:04:52| Nguyen Shaping DFW. I would certainly have to say that my Uncle Tom Nguyen that I mentioned, owns 32 to 30ish units, Lisa&#039 ; s Fried Chicken. Him and my father also probably helped create the Catholic community in Fort Worth. The church is called Our Lady of Fatima on Lancaster in Fort Worth. I would love to say that my father and my uncle contributed greatly, as far as funding the building of the churches and my father, as far as being the president of the church for many years, and kind of being their leader and trying to set people up for success. My uncle has also just greatly helped the community as well. With that many stores, he&#039 ; s got that many employees and he actually allows, you know, people to partner with him. So that way they can have some equity and just try to you know, live a better life here than there, referring to Vietnam. I don&#039 ; t know. I got to I got to give him some love too. He&#039 ; s, he&#039 ; s helped. |01:06:06| Brody That&#039 ; s great. Well, thank you for sharing that story as well. I really appreciate your time today and I&#039 ; m really excited that you participated in this project. So thank you. |01:06:20| Nguyen Sure. Thank you. Absolutely. All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. audio Interviews may be reproduced with permission from the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. 0




“Interview with Tony Nguyen, April 26, 2022,” Digging In Dallas, accessed July 12, 2024,