Ngoan Dang: Transitions: University Ave

Ngoan Dang, owner of the Mai Village restaurant on University Avenue, expresses uncertainty as the light rail construction work approaches


What is your name?

My name is Ngoan. Ngoan they tell me how can you pronounce ng in American. Actually my name is Ngoan and you pronounce like number one, or number two.

What is the name of your business?

The Mai Village.

Are you originally from Minnesota?

No, I’m from Viet Nam.

Could you tell us a bit more about yourself?

I come here in 1975 and I go around and come here. One night I drive here and my car is stuck on highway 36, because I don’t have money, I have an old car. Some guy stopped in 2 o’clock in the morning, “you need some help?” I say okay. This is a good state to stay. So I stay here, that’s it.

What is your main role at Mai Village?

I’m the owner.

Do you know what was in this building before Mai Village?

Yes, it was a Baptist church.

Do you know anything else about this business history or neighborhood history?

Yes, I know a little bit because before I built this one, I was next door about 14 years. So when I come here this was a debt area.

How many customers usually eat here each day?

A lot, you know I have to sell about four thousand two hundred fifty dollars to break even a day. People have 300 to 500 customers a day, but now it slow down. Now they start construction on Snelling they go down to the Mid mall.

How many customers do you think you will lose during the construction period?

I guess about 50%.

What might happen to Mai Village if power or water is cut off during construction?

I close.

How do you think the railway will affect your businesses during the light rail construction?

During light rail construction this restaurant will die, you know.

Do you think the light rail might harm or benefit your business?

You don’t know yet, so I don’t want to answer the question. I don’t know yet. So when is the future. Because people who build the light rail describe very bright future for you. And people who don’t like they describe a very bad future for you. So that’s the way it goes.

Made possible by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the vote of Minnesotans on November 4, 2008. Administered by the Minnesota Historical Society.