The restaurant, serving Chinese and Thai dishes for lunch and dinner at 2810 Washington Road is scheduled to close July 12. Formerly a Taco Bell, the 2,000-square-foot building has housed Thai Jong since 1989.
Current owners Tong and Lephuong Tran took over the business in early 1990 and have decided to retire. The couple’s children are now grown, and working 14 hours a day, seven days a week, has taken took a toll on the Trans, Lephuong Tran said.
“We’re kind of tired and just trying to take it easy for a little bit,” Tran said.
As Vietnamese refugees, the Trans and their 3-year-old child moved to Augusta in 1980 with little belongings or knowledge of the English language. After Tong Tran was laid off from a factory job at the Graniteville Co. facility downtown, the Trans worked in kitchens of local Chinese restaurants until a family friend offered to sell them Thai Jong, Lephuong Tran said.
In the years since, the family has turned both its small staff and loyal customers into longtime friends. The restaurant currently has four part-time employees.
“I have really, really nice customers that eat here for 25 years,” Lephuong Tran said. “If people are still in Augusta, they still come and see us every week. Everybody feels like a family.”
Lephuong Tran said she and her husband plan to travel and visit family and friends in the foreseeable future, but didn’t rule out the possibility of getting back into the restaurant industry some day.
“It may be boring one day later, and we’ll open a restaurant again,” she said. “You never know.”