Hoa & Pam Le

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The matriarch of the Le family is Hoa Le, owner of the popular Vietnamese restaurant Le Pho House in Weslaco. This local favorite comes with a unique story and begins when Hoa started her journey when she moved to the United States from Vietnam at the age of 17. Determined to create a better life for herself, Hoa lived in Houston and learned how to run a restaurant she helped successfully lead for many years before moving to the Rio Grande Valley.

She believed in the value of working hard and saw the opportunities that opened up when a person was determined. In the United States, anyone could create the life they wanted for themselves, and so she did. Hoa also did it for her children. As a single mother of four, her children added inspiration. They were who she worked so hard for so that they could learn from the power of hard work.

“I love to work. I want to work so that way I can get what I need,” Hoa said.

“I love that my dream is to have my own business, now I do it, and I am so happy.”

Hoa added that in the U.S., there is so much opportunity versus the chance for success in Vietnam. She is proud of herself and continues building on her successes.

Once in the Rio Grande Valley, Hoa successfully ran a nail salon for more than 30 years, but the Covid-19 pandemic struck in 2020, stopping things. At that time, her four grown children led their lives in different parts of the country. The economic effects of the pandemic brought the family back together for the first time in several years.

Pam, who had been working in Dallas, gathered with the rest of the family during that time as they all faced the financial hardship the pandemic brought them. The family members were not bringing in much income, and the bills were piling up as the shelter-in-place mandates were instated.

Then, over some of Hoa’s pho, Pam said that the idea to sell Hoa’s beloved pho was brought up, and then the planning began – that was the beginning of Le Pho House. Pam started posting to her social media and polling her followers asking questions like “If my mom sold her pho, would you buy it?”

The responses were very positive, and as the family did the numbers, even if just 50 to 100 people bought from them, they would stand to make a decent profit.

The Le family, including Hoa, her children Pam, Randy, Amber, and Amy, began their planning and started by promoting the pho sales on social media, meeting their customers in empty parking lots. The family kept the menu simple: pho, fried rice, egg rolls, and Spring rolls.

“We would do pre-orders, so we knew exactly how much we needed to make, and everyone paid in advance,” said Pam. “By the time we would get to the parking lot to do our deliveries, there was a line of cars lined up for their food. We thought, ‘Gosh, this is insane.’”

The Le family made a deal. The Le siblings sold the food, Pam led the marketing and business efforts, and Hoa was responsible for the cooking. Hoa cooked all night, perfecting the pho broth and ensuring enough for the following day’s orders. It was indeed a family affair, with Hoa and Pam leading the family, all coming together to fulfill Hoa’s dream of owning her own restaurant one day.

Over time, customers began knocking on the Le home, asking if they were selling that day or how to buy some pho. Hoa and her family were outgrowing their curbside order operation. At the same time, an opportunity to rent a space at a shopping center off Westgate Drive opened only minutes from the parking lots they had run curbside orders.

“We negotiated and stayed within our budget, and we were able to tell our customers that we officially had a location,” Pam said.

That was September 2020, and Covid restrictions were still strict, so the Le family continued to take curbside orders, but they now had a bigger kitchen to work with and a larger space. Pam said the family recruited more help and eventually opened up their dining space in December at 50% capacity.

“I had no restaurant background,” said Pam. “You gotta do food training and make sure your staff does the food training. We picked other restaurant owners’ brains and managed to learn.”

Pam and her family have indeed sold the food, and Le Pho House has seen great success. Restaurant goers will comment to Pam about how much they enjoy the food.

“They want to hear from her (Hoa), and every time she comes out and tells the story, people are just like, ‘that’s awesome!’” Pam said. “She’s so happy that people enjoy her food and the hospitality of it all. She really puts a lot of love into it.”

Hoa continues to instill the value of hard work and reminds her children that in other countries, people don’t have the opportunities we have in the United States. She reminds her children to be grateful and mindful of the things that they have and to stay humble. Hoa owns Le Pho House, and also owns a nail salon, and divvies up her time between the two businesses.

“I always wanted to have my own business,” Hoa said.

Hoa added that she is happy to work with her children, even though there are challenges, but they continue and do it together.

“I do everything in the back, and my kids do everything in the front. I am so proud of myself that I came to the U.S. and built my future. There’s a lot of things I want to do, and I work hard, but I love it. It means so much.”

Selene Guerrero