This month heralds the last installment of the Champions of Alberta Avenue profiles, written by Shirley Serviss.
Readers have had the opportunity to learn about some business owners along 118 Avenue. These individuals have fascinating stories and all share a commitment to their customers and the area.
Enjoy reading about the work these individuals have done to enrich their businesses and their community. Visit artsontheave.org for any further news on this project.
T & D Noodle House: A legacy of love for the next generation
Thien Truong and Diep Tran came to Canada in 1992 as refugees, sponsored by a relative in Edmonton. They came from Hong Kong, where they had gone to escape the Vietnam War and where their two daughters were born. Their youngest daughter, Laura Truong, was only five when they came to Edmonton and doesn’t remember the refugee camp or the journey, only that Canada was very welcoming.
Truong, who is working on a business degree, runs T & D Vietnamese Noodle House, which her parents opened in 2013 at 8405 118 Ave. The family lived in the 118 Avenue area when they first arrived and came back during the revitalization when they saw an opportunity to start a business.
Truong has noticed a real change in the area. It’s a lot safer, property values have increased, and there’s a diverse population. She also appreciates the art and the festivals.
“It’s one big, happy family,” she said. “Everybody is really friendly. A lot of people know each other.”
The family is still involved in the restaurant. “My mom is a chef and my sister-in-law, Sophoan Heang, works in the Noodle House part time.”
Most menu items are traditional, although perhaps not as spicy as they might be in Vietnam. “We try to keep the food as authentic as possible,” Truong said.
The restaurant is spotless and provides a serene atmosphere to enjoy an important aspect of Vietnamese culture—the cuisine.
Owning and operating a restaurant is a lot of work. “I didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” Truong said, “but when you’re working for yourself, it doesn’t really feel like work.”
She recognizes she owes her parents for their years of hard work. They moved to a country where they didn’t know the language, took whatever jobs they could, and looked for business opportunities so they could smooth the way for their children.
El Rancho carries on a legacy of sharing food
Alba Arevalo and her daughter Dora Arevalo started El Rancho Spanish Restaurant at 11810 87 Street in 2004 with only six tables. They didn’t have a business plan, but they did love cooking and entertaining and had a legacy of sharing their food with others, passed on from Dora’s maternal grandmother who ran a take-out business from her home in El Salvador.
The family came to Edmonton in 1986 when political unrest during the civil war made it unsafe for them to stay. Once the family was established, they used to take beans and rice to a hotel where they had come when they first arrived, welcoming other newcomers who might be feeling equally lost and alone.
“Mom used to cook like there was no tomorrow and always had people over,” said Dora, who learned to cook from her grandmother and was making soup by the time she was eight. The restaurant is an extension of that caring and the desire to share the love that Dora’s grandmother gave them through her food.
They expanded into the adjacent space in 2008, which provided room for more tables and walls to adorn with colourful pictures and artifacts from their homeland. Lively Spanish music completes the illusion that you’re in another country.
Choosing to locate in the 118 Avenue area was no accident. “It felt familiar here and looked more like home,” Dora said. “There were more families walking on the street, and the Italians and Portuguese would all smile and say hi to you.”
She’s definitely seen the changes in the area and contributed to them. “I used to get phone calls, ‘Is it safe to come down?,’ but not any more,” Dora said. She explained festivals like Kaleido and events like Eats on 118th have brought new people to the area. Last year she started her own festival Mi Tierra Calle 87th, which means “my homeland on 87th ”, with cooking, music, and dancing on the street. She hopes to expand it to include other restaurants.
“Maybe we’re different cultures, but in the end, it doesn’t matter. We all work together.”
Featured Image: Yem Nguyen (left ), Diep Tran (middle), and Laura Truong (right) are all involved with T & D Noodle House. | Kaye Ly