Trang Dang came to San Diego five years ago, following the lead of her husband, brother and sister, who settled in Southern California after fleeing the communist government in Vietnam. With the help of her relatives, Dang started Pho Bolsa restaurant three years ago at University Avenue and 41st Street in the Mid City Plaza, a crowded mini-mall catering to Vietnamese tastes.
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The first is in Westminster. As with the original Little Saigon, they have transformed a commercially lackluster, trouble-ridden area into a viable business strip.
Grocery stores with s in Vietnamese, English and Chinese advertise an array of Asian foods in their windows, and customers, including Asians, blacks and Latinos, bring their children to shop for fresh meats, fish and vegetables, as well more esoteric items such as ginseng juice.
A coin-operated laundry is a hangout for Vietnamese teen-agers playing the three video games there and caters to the neighbors in the area, many of them blacks and Latinos.
A flowering little saigon : influx of vietnamese in east s.d. has revitalized the area
At a local pool hall, young Vietnamese men smoke cigarettes the preferred brand is International and chat in their native dialect, forgoing the more traditional games of eight-ball or straight pool and opting instead for billiards. The result has been a conversion of the once run-down area into a moderately prosperous neighborhood.
The area, containing mostly apartment units with single-family homes sprinkled among them, now exhibits clean but crowded streets. Teen-agers of all colors play football in the streets where neighbors claim they once had to kick the prostitutes out every morning. Although the neighborhood is ethnically mixed, the Vietnamese tend to stay among themselves, residents say, preferring to patronize their own coffee shops and restaurants.
Across the street is City Heights Plaza, another mini-mall inhabited mostly by Vietnamese businesses.
The Indochinese Chamber of Commerce on University Avenue estimates there are Vietnamese-owned and -operated businesses in San Diego--from doctors, lawyers and dentists to groceries, restaurants and billiard halls. The boon began inwith the of Vietnamese-owned businesses almost doubling every year untilsaid Pham Xuan Thang of the Indochinese Chamber of Commerce.
The only business that does not have a representative from the Vietnamese community is banking. The relatively small Vietnamese population in San Diego makes catering to a mixture of customers imperative to success.
Many Vietnamese come to the East San Diego area for its relatively low rent, while others, after achieving economic stability, move from the area to Linda Vista, Mira Mesa and Rancho Penasquitos. But their businesses remain in the area. Thang, who has owned a garage on El Cajon Boulevard for seven years, discovered long ago that he could not rely solely on the Vietnamese community.
Expanding to the larger community will be the key to success for Vietnamese in San Diego in the future, he said. Thang cites Orange County, with a Vietnamese population up to six times that of San Diego, and claims that most of the businesses there cater only to Vietnamese and other Asians, thus limiting their market and growth potential.
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Thang fled Vietnam inleaving behind a professorship in meteorology at the University of Saigon. He escaped by boat with his wife and son, both of whom died when the boat capsized. Thang was rescued by a passing boat and taken to Sao Paulo, Brazil, where he put his meteorological expertise to work for the Coca Cola Co. Inhe came to the United States under the sponsorship of his two brothers and two sisters who lived in Southern California, but he found that the technology in his field had outpaced him and that he was no longer qualified to teach at the university level.
Instead, he decided to learn auto mechanics and, with the financial help of friends and relatives, opened his East San Diego garage.
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The year-old Thang, who has remarried and has a daughter, also operates a garage in Ocean Beach. In his nine years in East San Diego, he has seen the area develop from boarded-up buildings and empty lots to a moderate business community, with much of the growth taking place in the past five years. The growth of the Vietnamese immigrant population has fluctuated with the political moods of the government in Vietnam, and the political reforms taking place in Europe have spread, to a degree, to Southeast Asia. Seven months ago, the first of about former Vietnamese political prisoners were allowed to immigrate to the United States as a result of a U.
Amerasians, children of American soldiers and Vietnamese women who met during the Vietnam War, are also beginning to immigrate to the United States, Vietnamese leaders in San Diego said. All Sections.
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