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Dong Phuong Oriental Food to close its doors

Owner Duyet Le has retirement in his plans, and his adult children are ready to move on to their own business ventures.

[Times photo: Stefanie Boyar]
An Le and Duyet Le, center, have served Vietnamese specialties for 16 years with help from son Tuan Le, 27; daughter Yen Le, 29; nephew Tim Nguyen, 22; and sons Truong Le, 21, and Luan Le, 26.

By BABITA PERSAUD, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 19, 2002

TAMPA -- After 16 years of operating a popular South Tampa Vietnamese restaurant, owner Duyet Le has decided to close.

The final day of Dong Phuong Oriental Food cafe will be Saturday. A note taped to the glass door thanks "loyal customers."

"We have had the pleasures to serve," it read.

Le, 54, says he plans to retire. He is going to take two months off to visit his native Vietnam.


"Anything," he says shrugging his shoulders.

Dong Phuong (which means Far East) sits on a block of Henderson Boulevard dominated by Vietnamese-owned businesses, including an alterations shop and a nail salon.

The restaurant has always been an unlikely hot spot. Its storefront window is simple, painted pink, with a chef making an okay sign with his fingers. Inside, there are barely a dozen tables. A bamboo curtain separates the kitchen and the seats. A few pictures of Vietnam hang in thin metal frames.

The place is busiest at lunchtime. The phone rings constantly. Vietnamese disco music plays from a boom box.

Customers with beepers clipped to their Brooks Brothers slurped noodles from white bowls. Local news personalities made it their lunchtime mecca.

Le and his wife An Le did all the cooking, working many 12-hour days. Their four children helped.

But now, those children -- in their 20s and much Americanized -- have their own plans for a new venture, they say.

"Import and export," said Luan Le, one of the oldest.

He plans to travel back and forth to Vietnam, supplying local restaurants with rice paper, fish sauce, noodles and eventually, he hopes, seafood.

Why not keep the restaurant?

"It's hard work," said Luan Le, 26. "I stand for two hours and my feet hurt. I can't imagine 16 years."

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