San Jose - Behind every great American entrepreneurial success story stands a united family. The Le Family in San Jose is one such example of hard-working Americans that have built a thriving restaurant and food service business.
The Le family left Viet Nam and immigrated to San Jose in 1980.
While studying English as a second language, Chieu, the eldest son of the family often purchased items from a catering truck before and after class and eventually worked as a helper on a catering truck. In 1981, Chieu bought their first catering truck. Then in 1982, with younger brother Henry Le established Lee Bros. Foodservices, Inc. The family chose the name ''Lee Bros.'' instead of ''Le Bros.'' because it would be more easily understood in America.
From these modest beginnings, they created the largest industrial catering company in Northern California, serving more than 500 independently owned and operated catering trucks.
In 1983, Chieu's parents, Ba Van Le and Hanh Nguyen, started to serve Vietnamese type sandwiches on the catering truck to the community. At that time, the truck was parked on a street corner in the Downtown area, then into their first store on 6th and Santa Clara Streets. With the increasing demands, they outgrew the modest store, they relocated to King Road in San Jose.
In 2001, Chieu, his late eldest son, Minh Le, along with Chieu's in-laws, the Quach family created a new concept a mixture of bright, energetic restaurant sandwich environment, entertainment cafe and Asian-American cuisine. In addition to the traditional Vietnamese ''banh mi'' sandwiches, there are traditional American sandwiches such as ham and cheese served on baguettes or croissants.
Lee's very own ''Lee's Coffee'' (cafe sua da,) a traditional Vietnamese-style French press coffee with condensed milk, has become world-famous, and a unique selection of more than a dozen smoothies provide a great beverage selection. Minh said: ''Let the customers come to Lee's Sandwiches, just because.. it's a Lee's sandwiches.'' Minh was not here to see his dream comes true. He was not here to see Lee's Sandwiches join the main stream confidently, proudly within an unbelievable short period of time. In an accident, Minh passed away on March 29, 2001 at the tender age 21, and soon to be a business major graduate in May 2001 at San Jose State University.
Lee's attracts a diverse crowd from traditional Vietnamese-Americans to a younger crowd that is wowed by computer monitors suspended from the ceiling flashing special deals, full-color bilingual menu signs and chances to win free meals based on the number given to customers for their order.
The new Lee's Sandwiches concept has proved to be so successful that Lee's Sandwiches has become one of the fastest growing restaurant chains in the West. By 2006, there are 31 Lee's Sandwiches in operation and development in California, Arizona, Texas and Oklahoma. The company projects that it will add another dozen stores in 2007, which will include the states of Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, and will double the numbers every subsequent years.
Lee's Sandwiches' strong growth, combined with a commitment to the communities it serves, has been recognized by the Small Business Administration, which awarded Lee's Sandwiches its 2003 Regional Entrepreneurial Success Award. In Orange County in 2003, Chieu Le was recognized as the Business Person of the Year. In 2005, Lee's Sandwiches was recognized by Modern Baking as one of the ''Top 50'' Foodservice Bakery in the United States.
Beyond their business achievements, the Le Family is involved heavily in the communities in which they live and work. They have contributed and helped raise additional funds for victims of the 9-11 disaster, Hurricane Katrina, the floods in Vietnam, earthquakes in Mexico, and other charitable efforts throughout the world.
The Le Family epitomizes success and the promise of an American Dream. From humble beginnings to successful entrepreneurs, they have never forgotten their roots and their sense of responsibility to assist others during their challenging times