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Strength, Resilience, and a Little Sauce are the Ingredients for a New Beginning in Oregon

Vinh, Maie and Lisa TranVinh, Mai & Lisa Tran

Strength, Resilience, and a Little Sauce are the Ingredients for a New Beginning in Oregon 

When Lisa Tran’s parents escaped Vietnam in 1976 after the capital city of Saigon fell to North Vietnam, they would embark on a harrowing journey and endure unspeakable hardships to carve out a new beginning for their lives together. Lisa joined them after being born in a refugee camp in Indonesia where they eventually immigrated to Oregon. After 20 years working in the Pacific Northwest’s aerospace and footwear industries, Lisa’s parents took a new journey as entrepreneurs when they open the doors to Tân Tân Café & Delicatessen in Beaverton, Oregon.

Tân Tân means “New Beginnings" and it did not take long for the restaurant to grow a loyal customer base who embraced not only popular dishes such as Phở (Beef noodle soup) but also the signature sauces the restaurant created to complement the subtle flavors of its dishes. The popularity of these sauces presented a unique opportunity to extend the restaurant’s brand and build a product line to support the growing popularity of Vietnamese cuisine on Portland’s local food scene. Lisa knew she could use some help getting their sauce recipes to market.

That help came when she discovered a flyer at the Portland Small Business Development Center (SBDC) promoting their “Getting Your Recipe to Market” program. The comprehensive course opened the door to new possibilities as it taught her how to demo her products, implement food safety processes, receive feedback, how to set up her products and creating the right labels. The course final was to pitch their product to a prominent local grocery chain where they became the first company from the program to launch their sauces in its stores. With the success of gaining their first client, Lisa was able to confidently launch her line of Tân Tân Vietnamese sauces in 2017.

When the impacts of COVID-19 emerged, the family restaurant had to pivot to keep its business alive and its valued team members on the job. Facing a decrease in revenue, they applied for a loan under the SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) which provided a lifeline so they could continue to serve their community. While the restaurant enjoyed the support of its loyal customers through take-out options, it’s line of sauces helped keep the restaurant afloat as more and more home-bound customers discovered how to prepare their favorite Vietnamese dishes at home.

Today, Tân Tân Café & Delicatessen has fully opened its doors for dining and its line of sauces can now be found in more than 300 locations in the U.S. and Japan. It prides itself as offering the only vegan and gluten-free certified Vietnamese sauces. In helping to introduce its successful line of sauces, Lisa hopes to honor the sacrifice and legacy her parents have made to build a new beginning for the family. Lisa is building a legacy of her own as she continues to build community among others in the food industry. She dedicates shelf space at the restaurant’s market for local producers to help elevate their products and give them another place to shine.

“If we didn’t have the sauce line, I think our restaurant would have been in really, really dire trouble,” said Tran. “The sauce line would not have happened without the help of the SBDC and its partnership with the SBA.”