Champlain Housing Trust is excited to announce that the founders of one of Burlington’s busiest and most well-loved restaurants will be expanding their Old North End operations soon. After 14 years in business renting their restaurant space, Pho Hong founders Dao Le and Lan Hong now own the property along with the commercial space right next door.
In 2008, the husband and wife team Dao and Lan rented one of the front commercial bays in what was then a newly renovated space created from old Vermont Transit Bus Barns. They opened Pho Hong and began offering fresh, homemade and authentic Vietnamese food in a casual setting with friendly, fast-paced service from a staff that included their two daughters Jade Le and Thao Gintof.
Jade, who along with her sister still works at the restaurant, said the opportunity to purchase this commercial property has given their family a greater sense of security and will allow them to continue what they do so well with extra space to store supplies and spread tables out in the dining area.
The plan for now is not so much to make Pho Hong bigger, she said, but to enable them to store things more efficiently and to give the kitchen crew and wait staff more space to work.
“Right now we have to store things on top of the cooler and in tight spaces wherever we can fit them. With extra space we can spread out the seating,” Jade said. “And we will have more room so our kids can spend time at the restaurant with us.”
Jade said her 12-year-old son has always talked about wanting to work at Pho Hong and already has saving goals in mind.
The family also plans to open and operate a small laundromat next to the restaurant.
While construction has already begun, the renovation timeline remains uncertain. When the wall between the existing restaurant and the new space is ready to come down, the Pho Hong staff will have to vacate for a short time. “We won’t know until the contractors tell us when they’re ready,” Jade said. “We are hoping to close for only two weeks, but we have to wait for them to tell us when that will be.”
While it’s hard to plan for time off, Jade said the kitchen and wait staff are excited they will be able to take a vacation. “It’s the first time in two years!”
Loyal customers have kept the business steady throughout the pandemic. Jade said the challenge Pho Hong continues to face is one many restaurants are struggling with – keeping the kitchen fully staffed.
“We train all employees really well and we all multi-task. It looks like we are running around like a chicken, but we know what we’re doing and how to work together in tight spaces.”