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Friday, September 30, 2011

So Long, Saigon Cafe

Today, after 15 years of serving a blend of great Vietnamese food and gracious hospitality, Ty and Bich Truong are closing the doors of their Saigon Cafe on East Market Street for good. Not that their unique restaurant hasn’t attracted enough customers. The past several days have seen nothing but long lines of loyal patrons waiting to enjoy just one more taste of the Truongs’ fare.

The couple just decided it was time to take a break from the 12-14-hour days they've been putting in every Monday to Saturday, 52 weeks a year, and to try something new. They also plan to put their house up for sale and move to California sometime soon to be closer to some of their grown children.

Our own ties with Ty and Bich go back to 1979, when the church I was serving as pastor, Zion Mennonite near Broadway, sponsored Ty and several of his siblings and cousins as refugees. They were among the many “boat people” who had made a perilous escape from Ho Chi Minh City after the fall of Saigon to escape the difficult conditions in that war torn country. With some 650 people in a vessel measuring 90 feet by 40 feet, they somehow made it to an overcrowded refugee camp in Thailand.

There Ty met Bich and the two fell in love and were married. Since their marriage wasn’t recognized by the U.S., Ty had to come here without his new wife, who went to France to be with relatives until she was finally able to rejoin her husband in 1982--through the efforts of the Mennonite Central Committee’s refugee resettlement program. It was my privilege to perform an official American wedding ceremony for them at our church later that year.

I recently spoke with Ty about their experience of adjusting to a new world. “I get really upset when I hear people complain about their lot here,” he said, with deep feeling. “This is heaven compared to what we’ve been through. What do people want, something better than heaven?”

Thanks, Ty and Bich, for all the courage, hard work and contagious optimism you’ve demonstrated through all these years. We’ll miss you a lot, but your warm spirit and your tasty entrees will be memories we’ll savor forever.
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