Banh Mi Spot

Northampton, MA

Banh MiWhen he was 7, Chuong Son’s family moved him 8,788 miles from their home 60 miles south of Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam-still known as Saigon–to live in Amherst, where Chuong grew up. He attended Amherst public schools, and, after high school, Chuong worked for 10 years on the award-winning University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Dining Services staff, gaining knowledge in all aspects of the food service industry.

Chuong longed to own his own restaurant, and as he developed his skills, he also developed a deep appreciation for the regional Vietnamese foods his parents continued to prepare and enjoy. Chuong explains that these foods were culturally important to the region in Vietnam where his and his wife, Mung’s, relatives continue to live. Both families encouraged his entrepreneurial dreams, and, in 2012, Chuong and Mung invested their savings and opened Bahn Mi Saigon on Route 9 in Hadley. Their menu was based on recipes passed down for generations.

In 2013, after a short time in business, a fire destroyed the Hadley building, forcing the closure of several businesses, including Banh Mi and Mi Tierra Restaurant. Chuong faced the end of his entrepreneurial dream with the loss of all inventory and equipment, but the community came to his aid. The United Way of Hampshire County contacted Common Capital for help in assisting with a new location and financing to resurrect the business with new inventory and equipment. Shortly thereafter, Bahn Mi opened its doors on Main Street in Northampton.

Loyal customers followed Chuong to the new location. Common Capital’s Business Assistance Program provided training in bookkeeping and financial reporting. Chief Operating Officer Michael Abbate and Director of Business Assistance Bill Horowitz worked with Chuong on strategic planning and marketing strategies for the business. In both 2015 and 2016, the restaurant was the winner of the Valley Advocate Best of Winners Award for Best Vietnamese Restaurant.

In the summer of 2016, the restaurant closed briefly for modernization of the kitchen and dining area, upgraded the exterior of the restaurant and re-branded as Bahn Mi Spot. The menu continues to feature traditional soups and Bahn Mi sandwiches, which combine French-influenced ingredients–baguettes and mayonnaise–with native Vietnamese ingredients such as cilantro, cucumber and pickled carrots.

Choung believes his restaurant’s biggest asset is the family of Bahn Mi Spot; he calls his 10 employees his “brothers and sisters.” Chuong says, “Every day, we pick each other up, both mentally and physically. We have each others’ backs. Without this family, this business would not work.”

On the Banh Mi Spot website, Chuong writes, “The American Dream is a well-known ideology that the opportunity for prosperity and success can be achieved through hard work and perseverance.”

Great food for thought!