In a true example of the American dream, the Nguyen family – Vietnamese immigrants in Salt Lake City since 1992 and owners of Sapa Investment Group – is set to create the City’s first Food Alley. The family opened up the first Pho restaurant in Salt Lake City and now owns five different businesses throughout the Salt Lake Valley. The family says their successful restaurant background, international research, vision and an innovative business model make a recipe for success for Food Alley.
“Not only is there a need, but a want for a place like Food Alley,” says Mai Nguyen, CEO of Sapa Investment Group. “People need diverse places to eat, a community where they can gather and interact, and Food Alley will be an ideal destination to gather, socialize and enjoy food and arts that people in Utah may not have access to elsewhere.”
Scheduled to open in early 2019, Food Alley will encompass 48,000 square feet located at State Street and 800 South. This $10 million investment into one of Salt Lake City’s Main Street designated commercial districts is expected to bring 700 jobs. Plans are in place for 17 restaurants on the ground level–with space to house businesses from refugee entrepreneurs as part of the Spice Kitchen project. Plus 21 affordable artist lofts will be on the second level.
Already committed to Food Alley are “anchor restaurants” that include an Italian restaurant, sushi bar, ramen shop, beer bar and others. With hopes of bringing in chefs from around the country and beyond, Food Alley will also have pop-up space for traveling chefs who want to showcase their work in Salt Lake City for several weeks at a time.
“The Nguyen family and Sapa Investment Group are true visionaries in Salt Lake City,” says Lara Fritts, the city’s economic development director. “They have been champions of the city for decades and their vision and dedication with Food Alley will provide opportunities for thousands of people in Utah–from employment for the city’s refugee population, affordable space for dozens of creatives, to training programs for women at the new homeless resource center nearby.”
Nguyen adds that expanding their endeavors in Salt Lake City is the most sound and logical decision. “Food Alley will serve the youthful, diverse population that’s booming in the Capital City. It is just two blocks from City Hall and it’s evident that downtown is spreading farther south.”
The City’s Department of Economic Development has been working with Sapa Investment Group on Food Alley for more than a year. The department is providing funding to Spice Kitchen through the Economic Development Loan Fund, breaking down communication barriers surrounding the proposed homeless resource center and engaging the Nguyen family in Main Street efforts.
In fact some women staying at the homeless resource center could find employment at Food Alley. “If at the end of the work training program, they show they share our core values of accountability, commitment and trust, then we would definitely hire them,” adds Nguyen.
About Salt Lake City Department of Economic Development: Formed in 2016, under the leadership of Mayor Jackie Biskupski, Salt Lake City’s Department of Economic Development is focused on building Salt Lake City as a vibrant, beautiful, prosperous, diverse, and authentic place – a place that is economically accessible to everyone. Known as the “Crossroads of the West,” Salt Lake City is strategically located for businesses to succeed. SLCDED works to streamline processes, provide excellent customer service, and offer an array of resources and services to recruit and retain businesses in the City, and ensure they have the tools to thrive.