Sugar Bowl Bakery: How Five Refugee Brothers Conquered America’s Sweet Tooth

If you have a fondness for sweets, it’s likely that you’ve indulged in some of the delectable treats offered by Sugar Bowl Bakery, such as brownie bites, madeleines, or palmiers. These items are readily available at various retail outlets, including Costco, Kroger, and Wal-Mart.

Andrew Ly, now 67, founded the bakery alongside his four brothers. The journey to becoming entrepreneurs began in 1978 when the family fled Vietnam, crossing the South China Sea in a boat that measured only nine feet wide. They survived robbery by pirates and eventually made it to the U.S.

Andrew’s brothers worked as newspaper carriers and restauranteurs, while their wives pursued careers in sewing. Andrew studied accounting at San Francisco State University and delivered newspapers at night while taking Language classes. The seven of them lived in a one-bedroom Tenderloin flat at one time and saved money as much as they can.

Andrew and his siblings learned about a coffee business for sale in 1984 through a friend. They used their individual savings to buy the Sugar Bowl Bakery for $40,000, keeping its name. Doughnuts, muffins, and croissants were taught by the seller.

As their doughnuts were in high demand, they began selling them to various coffee shops and 7-Eleven stores. The bakery’s success resulted in a total savings of $100,000 within a short period.

Eventually, the Ly Brothers Corp. was established, with Andrew Ly appointed as the CEO. As the only member of the family who was proficient in English and capable of innovative thinking, Andrew was entrusted by his family to manage the business and lead the team.

Andrew’s advice is to work hard, have a good heart, and be disciplined – as these are the ingredients to success.