TRUCKEE, Calif. — Two years ago, Tim and Trish Duong bought a house. Two years before the house, they bought a business.
And nine years ago, Tim Duong left everything he’d ever known and came to the United States.
The Duongs’ story mirrors so many — building a new life in hopes of giving their children something better.
“It’s very frustrating because everything is new,” Trish said. “A new language, a new culture. It took me a while to adjust.”
Trish emigrated from Vietnam and became a US citizen 20 years ago, following her father who came years before to escape the war.
“I came here at 16,” Trish said. “English is my second language so it was hard for me to be successful in school.”
Trish now owns Sassy Nails, a nail and wax salon on Donner Pass Road. Trish said she grew up helping her mom in a coffee shop in their small village in South Vietnam, so running a business comes naturally to the petite, friendly woman.
“I’ve been doing this (customer service and nails) since I was in my country. I helped to do the work and I learned how to work with customers and people,” she said.
After four years in business, the Duongs have established relationships with their customers and have built a steady clientele.
They have given Sassy Nails a new look through many remodels and with a calming décor of beach scenes and soft paper lamps.
The Duongs live in Sacramento, and Tim commutes with his wife and their employees to Truckee six days per week.
Drier winters have made it easier, but there have been times they stay overnight at the salon.
Tim and Trish also employ other Vietnamese immigrants from their neighborhood and community in Sacramento.
According to the industry magazine Nails, 80 percent of California’s nail technicians are Vietnamese. The immigrant group dominates the industry and makes up 45 percent of manicurists nationwide.
Sassy Nails is open Monday through Saturday, so during the week, Tim’s and Trish’s children go to their grandparents’ house after school. Trish’s parents also help on Saturdays while Trish and Tim are at the salon.
The parents look forward to the evenings when they can spend time with the girls, help them with their homework and tuck them in to bed. Like all mothers, Trish feels the pull between work and home.
“I wish I had more time with them,” Trish said. “The business doesn’t allow me to take too much time, I always feel bad.”
The Duong family spend time together on Sundays, and although Trish and Tim must care for the household too, they try to make the best of it.
“We just have one day together,” Tim said. “We go to the park, we go to eat together. But we also have to clean the house and buy supplies, buy food.”
Vietnamese Americans are first or second generation and speak their native language at home, making it the seventh largest spoken language in the US today.
Tim took grammar classes after immigrating, but says he learned English best by working with customers. His daughters, Vanessa, 5, and Giselle, 4, are learning English in school.
“They go to school and they do English,” he said, going on to add that he hopes his girls will do well and continue their education.
As for the family business, Tim and Trish Duong don’t mind if their girls don’t take it over.
“I encourage them to be what they want to be,” Trish said. “They have more opportunities than I did.”
The story isn’t new and certainly isn’t singular, the story of people leaving their countries in search of something better, to give their children opportunities they never had.
“As parents, we always want everything good for the kid,” Trish said.
“A new language, a new culture. It took me a while to adjust.”