2017-06-23 / Front Page

Local business owners risk their lives to come to America

By Anita Baker

Tieu Hoa Truong and Khue Tran, owners of T’s Nail Salon 
Photo by Ivan Truong Tieu Hoa Truong and Khue Tran, owners of T’s Nail Salon Photo by Ivan Truong Hoa Sypolt remembers vividly the experience of fleeing the nation of Vietnam in 1987 with her father, Khue Tran, and younger brother, Do Thanh Tran. They were on a boat with 27 people in the waters of the South China Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. Sypolt and her father were part of hundreds of thousands of refugees, referred to as “boat people,” who fled after the Vietnam War and until the 1990s.

Hoa, with her father and brother, left Vietnam with the hope they would “somehow float to a refugee camp or be rescued at sea by anyone who could help them.” Unfortunately, while at sea, their boat was attacked by pirates and four people were kidnapped. One of those kidnapped at sea by pirates was her little brother, Do Thanh Tran. The family has not seen or heard from him since.

The conditions in Vietnam after the American military left in defeat in 1975 continued to deteriorate due to economic sanctions, government policies, and the effects of 20 years of war.

Many working people like Hoa’s father chose to flee the nation in search of a better life. Because Hoa’s mother had a baby at home and another small child, they remained in Vietnam in 1987.

The family was reunited after 10 years when Hoa’s mother, Tieu Hoa Truong, brother, Van Tran, and sister, Hien Tran, came to the United States in a very different way, by airplane on a direct flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Columbia in 1994.

Hoa and her father remained on the boat after surviving the attack by pirates and the loss of her brother. They floated for seven days and nights before landing ashore on the coast of Thailand. At this point, their boat was confiscated and destroyed, and they were taken to a refugee camp in Thailand called Phanat Nikhom where they lived for almost three years.

A family member from Vietnam who had resettled in the United States provided an invitation for Hoa and her father to enter the United States.

After living in the Philippines for six additional months, they traveled to New Orleans to meet their family member and arrive safely on American soil.

Hoa’s father had fought for the Americans in the Vietnam war. He was a tailor in Vietnam by occupation. After a brief stay in New Orleans, Jackie Vo, owner of Jackie’s Alterations in Columbia also Hoa’s father’s first cousin, brought Hoa and her father to Columbia where they were given the opportunity to work for Jackie’s Alterations and establish their citizenship in the United States.

Hoa’s father worked for Jackie’s Alterations from 1987 to 1996. In 1994, Hoa’s father established citizenship in the United States and was able to bring his entire family to Columbia. Hoa says nail salons were becoming very popular at that time in the United States and so Hoa’s family founded their new business, T’s Nail Salon, a family owned and operated nail salon at 2261 Charleston Highway in Cayce, SC. T’s Nail Salon was named for her mother, Tieu Hoa Truong, who has faithfully worked in the nail salon for almost 40 years.

Hoa’s family is proud their business has continued to thrive and grow in a mall that has seen many businesses come and go over the years. Each of the members of the family including Hoa, her siblings, and her mother work daily in the salon. This is the only career they know, and they have come to love their loyal customers, representing four generations of support for their business.

Hoa’s father worked for Men’s Warehouse after leaving Jackie’s Alterations which provided good benefits and salary for his family and their growing family business. He recently retired and now enjoys working part-time for T’s Nail Salon’s alterations clients.

Hoa provides professional skin care services at T’s Salon including facials, massage, and microdermabrasion. According to Hoa’s mother, however, the most important part of their life at T’s Nail Salon is that all of her family is together, all day, every day, united and able to reach out and serve others.

Hoa’s mother travels to Vietnam at least twice a year to serve her native homeland. She has founded the Vietnamese Orphanage Fund and collects money throughout the year at their salon to use to buy materials, food, and clothing for children in an orphanage in Ho Chi Minh City.

Her philanthropic work and heart for the Vietnamese people is boundless. She has started a home in Ho Chi Minh City to care for the elderly; she takes Americans on mission trips to Vietnam to serve the people there, and whenever she and her family travel to Vietnam they take suitcases of clothes, feminine supplies, soaps, shampoo, Advil, toothpaste, etc. for those in need.

Hoa’s mother says they are “very thankful and grateful for what they have, so they give back in ways that they can.” She mourns the loss of her first son deeply and is very grateful to have her family reunited in Columbia.” Hoa says they love Columbia. The climate is similar to Vietnam, and they have built a good life here.

Hoa says her parents are her heroes. She says they have “made tremendous sacrifices and have really suffered, and, yet, they continue to have joy in their hearts and consistently give to others whether it is through their ministry to others here or overseas in Vietnam.”

Hoa says that even though they have built so many friendships through their time at the salon, they don’t often get a chance to tell their family story.

T’s Nail Salon will be celebrating its 40th year in business in August 2018. T’s Nail Salon provides nails, skin care & alterations services. Most appointments are made in advance due to their busy schedule and walk-ins are welcome. T’s Nail Salon is open Monday through Saturday 10:30 am to 7:00 pm. T’s Nail Salon is located at 2261 Charleston Highway, Cayce, SC 29033. Please contact T’s Nail Salon by phone 803-739-8964 . Donations to the Vietnamese Orphanage Fund are welcome and accepted at T’s Nail Salon.

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