Gong Grocer by Thai Kee is a family-owned and operated Asian grocery business with a legacy spanning over 30 years. In this article, Brian Nguyen, one of the co-founders and a Director of Gong Grocer, shares insights with Asian Hustle Network.
Brian’s family is well-known in the Sydney community for their Thai Kee roots. Their journey originated with their grandfather, Thai Trinh, the esteemed namesake of the family’s original supermarket, Thai Kee. Gong Grocer represents the family’s evolutionary step, a mission to revitalize and modernize the Asian grocery shopping experience.
Brian acknowledges the shifting expectations of customers in physical in-store retail settings, and it’s their goal to meet these expectations in their new stores. As the Co-Founder and Director, Brian brings a unique blend of family tradition, personal journey, and a commitment to delivering an exceptional Asian grocery shopping experience.
A FAMILY OF IMMIGRANTS
Brian’s parents, uncles, and aunties were immigrants who fled Vietnam during wartime. Striving for a new life, they left behind everything in pursuit of opportunities in Australia.
Australia’s policy of multiculturalism provided a unique chance for Brian’s family and immigrants alike. The open embrace of diversity allowed families like theirs to openly celebrate their culture, thrive, and share their rich heritage with the broader community.
The origin of the name Thai Kee comes from their grandfather Thai Trinh, who they lovingly referred to as their “Ah Gong” (阿公), meaning grandfather in their dialect. He was the patriarch, and the original entrepreneur of the family. He sold Chinese donuts to supermarkets, waking up at 2 am each morning to bake them, then walking and hand delivering these donuts to supermarkets by 9 am each and every day.
THE FIRST THAI KEE SUPERMARKET
Despite limited means, Thai Trinh invested $5,000 in the first Thai Kee Supermarket in Cabramatta, providing a foundation for his children. But aside from money and most importantly, he passed onto his children a profound sense of hard work, dedication, and a deep commitment to one another, in their culture, and their community.
These values, instilled by their Ah Gong, form the cornerstone of their family’s identity. Known as “Thai” from Thai Kee to customers, to the family, he’s always been Ah Gong.
To honor the spirit of their beloved Ah Gong, Brian and his family launched Gong Grocer by Thai Kee, or 阿公超市, paying homage to the heritage and principles instilled by their grandfather.
FULL-TIME LAWYER TURNED ENTREPRENEUR
As Brian got older and heard more about his family’s stories, he felt a strong desire to carry on their traditions. He saw it as his mission to come up with new and interesting ways to share their culture with the diverse Chinese, Asian, and Australian communities.
Formerly a full-time lawyer, Brian Nguyen took the leap into entrepreneurship, co-founding Gong Grocer alongside his wife Wendy Lin, who herself manages her own successful business, Lioness Fashion.
Brian draws inspiration from his family’s entrepreneurial legacy, rooted in hard work, service, and dedication. The values instilled by his grandfather, Thai Trinh, continue to guide Brian in his pursuit of business excellence and cultural celebration.
In his career and business journey, Brian Nguyen faced significant challenges, notably in time management. Gong Grocer started as a passion project for him. The transition from law to full-time business, alongside his wife Wendy Lin in Lioness Fashion, posed a wild adjustment.
Shifting from a lawyer to a business owner brought its own set of challenges. Balancing the demands of Lioness Fashion, an internationally recognized brand with immediate growth needs, and Gong Grocer, a venture built from scratch, proved to be extremely difficult. The latter involved design, planning, construction, and eventual launch and operations.
To overcome these challenges and achieve success, Brian drew inspiration from his family’s values. He doubled down on hard work and commitment, using them as guiding principles. Recognizing the need for a strong team, he leaned on his family and those around him to build a purpose-driven team that shared his vision. Together, they navigated the complexities, turning Gong Grocer into a thriving reality.
CELEBRATING GONG GROCER’S FLAGSHIP STORE
One of Brian Nguyen’s proudest achievements in this journey is the flagship supermarket store.
“Seeing the tangible transformation coming to life and physical form, from cutting out a giant hole in a concrete floor to creating a whole new level in a shopping centre, and doing this with my family no less, was incredibly rewarding,” Brian shared.
The grand opening events further highlighted the significance of the brand and its story. Brian was genuinely pleased by the support received from the community and the broader public. This positive response reflects the hard work of Brian and his family as entrepreneurs, their active role in the community, and the strong connections they have forged within the industry.
CONNECT WITH GONG GROCER / BRIAN