Since I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of living in Viet Nam for 15 years, I’ve seen a lot of changes throughout the country – for better and for worse.
Above is a photo of a Brodard restaurant, tea house, and bakery located on Đồng Khởi St. in downtown HCMC (Saigon). Brodard is a company that has been around for 72 years. It somehow warms the cockles of my heart that a local company has expanded and is in the financial position to afford such a high-profile and expensive location.
In recent years, this address has hosted a Sony Center and a Gloria Jean’s Coffees store in descending chronological order. Given its location in a prime, high-rent district, it’s obvious that neither was able to cover their costs and more. (Foreign coffee chains have discovered that it’s not easy to compete with their local competitors. Starbucks is doing the best so far but could do better if it would localize some items on its menu.)
A few steps away is the Bong Sen Hotel, a three-star hotel that opened in 1975. After the war, it was part of the Saigon Tourist portfolio, a state-owned company, and was subsequently privatized. It was the first hotel I stayed at during a visit in 1996 or 1997. Like all hotels and the entire tourism industry, the Bong Sen has no doubt fallen on hard times but I’m confident it will survive and continue to prosper in the post-COVID-19 era.
Shalom (שלום), MAA