ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The year was 1975. In America, the Watergate scandal was wrapping up in court, the second wave of feminism was well under way, the popular television shows “Wheel of Fortune” and “Saturday Night Live” premiered, the Pittsburgh Steelers were Super Bowl champs and Bill Gates was in Albuquerque founding Microsoft.
Across the ocean, a 3-year-old Nam Tran was completely oblivious to all of this but that year the direction of his life would change and land him in the United States.
In 1975, Tran and his mother were Vietnamese citizens in the capital city of Saigon. It would turn out to be the final year of the Vietnam War and also the year Saigon fell to the north, putting Americans stationed there and some Vietnamese citizens in danger. Tran’s mother, he said, was one of those people because of her work as a translator for the U.S. Embassy. Tran said it was these connections that he believed saved their lives.
“A guy she worked with said ‘I’ve been looking for you. Go home and pack up and meet me at this cafe,'” he said. “He met her there and he had documentation for us and we flew out as military personnel that day.”
Although he remembers very little of the ordeal, Tran said his early life and his mother – whom he describes as extremely loving but straightforward, intimidating and driven – inspired him to excel. Tran opened the first of his three N Studio hair salons in 2011 and this summer he opened his Vietnamese fusion restaurant Café Nom Nom near the University of New Mexico. His salons are located in Corrales, the North Valley and next to his restaurant.