If you want to know what hard work, dedication, and maybe a touch of good genes will do for you, look at Dong Tran, owner of Bida (pronounced BEE-da) Saigon. Tran is 61 and looks 10 years younger.
As the name suggests, Bida Saigon serves Vietnamese dishes. Tran stresses that the cuisine is “authentic.”
The restaurant has been open for about nine years, and Tran said business continues to grow. The idea for the establishment came about because of the owner’s previous work in food services, selling ingredients if not recipes. He began to wonder if he could bring something unique, something “really authentic” to Knoxville.
He could. His recipes are “family secrets,” he says, and he has depended on “word of mouth” to get the word out about Bida Saigon.
Not long after he opened he received calls from local radio and television stations wondering what all the fuss was about. “They came over, put me on the air, and they loved (the food). After a while.” he said, smiling, “some white people started coming in.”
On the day we interviewed the owner, a mix of colors came and went from the casual restaurant. The enticing food aromas were surely enough to sweep aside any notion of prejudice.
Tran has given thought to expanding, perhaps franchising his concept eventually. “I’d like to see more ‘Bidas,’” he said. But like small business owners everywhere, and especially in the restaurant industry, he finds reliable workers hard to come by.
“They don’t show up, don’t call, they show up late,” complaints common to the business he’s in. The workers he knows he can depend on are in his own family, his son, his daughter and his wife. But both children are pursuing college degrees and will not be around forever.
“Even now we have new customers come in daily,” Tran said. Meanwhile, while mindful of the future, he continues to put in 12-hour days, six days a week. He schedules breaks during the day and jogs to stay fit.
Despite the long hours, his schedule has been worse: “I used to do seven days.”
Bida Saigon faces Ray Mears Boulevard just west of Target, although the official address is 8078 Kingston Pike, Suites 165 and 167.
Contact Larry Van Guilder at firstname.lastname@example.org.