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Hao’s Grocery and Cafe

Who? Hao Tran

What? Hao’s Grocery and Cafe is an Asian grocery with cooking classes. 

Where? 120 St. Louis Ave. in Fort Worth

Website: https://www.facebook.com/haosgrocerycafe/

Fort Worth Report spoke with Hao Tran about the business. This interview has been edited for content, grammar and clarity.

Seth Bodine: How did you get started as a food entrepreneur?

Hao Tran: I became an empty nester. I had two girls in college and no one to cook for anymore. So I started cooking for friends, who said maybe you should do something with this. And I had a pop-up dinner, for you know, eight people. Sold out like 30 seconds after I posted it. It was people that some of us didn’t know. And then I posted another one, and it sold out within a few minutes as well. 

This was in 2018. After that, I had a mutual friend, her name is Meda Kessler. She knew me and then she went to an event that my dumpling partner had, Dixya, she introduced us and said “you guys need to get together.” And we did, we met at Central Market and over a bottle of wine and we planned our first pop-up. And since then, we did pop-ups for about two years until COVID.

I introduced her to Trent and Dena Shaskan because I met them through farmers markets. I was managing that market for the property manager there and Trent was just starting out and making bread and Dena had been in the business for a long time but she was just selling her soups at that market and they had been looking for a retail space. Trent was selling bread on Magnolia, you know, in front of Stir Crazy. 

The four of us got together. I found this space because my hairdresser was the first tenant and she and I used to be neighbors at another space on Magnolia and college. There was nothing here other than concrete and beams. But I could see the potential because it was a raw space. And I showed it to the other three and they said yeah, this is within our budget and we can finish it out the way we like it.

After COVID died down, we got people back in the store. This was just a year ago. 

We started doing our classes again, started doing more in-person shopping again. But then Trent and Dena got the opportunity to go downtown about two years ago. I did not pursue it with them.

Bodine: Why not? 

Tran: It’s just the business concept was not something I felt comfortable with. I need to know what the details are that are consistent. I couldn’t operate by saying well, we’ll see in a year or two years.

Bodine: This isn’t your full time job. You teach, right? What subject? 

Tran: Chemistry, biology, physics. I mean, I’ve taught it all, 20 years of teaching.

Bodine: Is that what you always wanted to do? 

Tran: No, I wanted to be a doctor actually. But I got married young and I never went back. And I had kids. My greatest asset are my children. Greatest accomplishment are my daughters, but the food world was really just a passion of really sharing cultural foods with people. Things that I learned from my grandmother. My aunt had a French Vietnamese restaurant in Montreal. And I would spend my summers there, watch the whole process and was just enamored. 

Was I ever thinking of doing that? No. I just loved it. My grandmother, I was the youngest, so I hung out with her. Watched her make tofu from scratch, watched her make pho from scratch, watch her do different things like make artichoke teas. Just things that come back in your memory as you get older, then you want to share that with your kids. But my kids have their families and have their life and I don’t have anybody else that cook for so this is it. This is an opportunity for me to share that skill set. 

Bodine: Do you still make dumplings? 

Tran: Absolutely.

Bodine: Where do you sell them?  

Tran: Clearfork Farmers Market; we’re there every Saturday now. We can’t keep them in stock. We’re having production this week. But then next week will be a massive production. 

Bodine: How many do you make? 

Tran: 1,000. It’s a lot. Sometimes I’m up here until 2 o’clock in the morning. 

Seth Bodine is a business and economic development reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at seth.bodine@fortworthreport.org and follow on Twitter at @sbodine120

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Seth BodineBusiness Reporter

Seth Bodine is the business reporter for the Fort Worth Report. He previously covered agriculture and rural issues in Oklahoma for the public radio station, KOSU, as a Report for America corps member....