21 Vietnamese Owned Businesses Honored In Biloxi

Many of them lost their homes, possessions, even family members, in Katrina, but they still managed to make a comeback.

Since the storm, 21 Vietnamese-owned businesses have been built in East Biloxi, creating jobs, services and boosting morale in the once-devastated area.

On Friday night, the city of Biloxi recognized these businesses for their resilience and contribution to the city.

"We come here almost every day for lunch. I myself will get five or six lunches to take back to the crew," said Bob Kunecke.

Kunecke has been working on the Biloxi-Ocean Springs Bridge for nearly a year and a half. On most days, you can spot him at Sonny's Shell Station on Oak Street around lunch time.

"We work between 11 and 12 hours a day, but this place has been a unique place, not just for food, but for entertainment, because everyone who comes here feels like family. Part of that is just Sonny himself, he knows everybody's first name," he said.

The Shell Station was one of the first Vietnamese-owned businesses to reopen in Biloxi.

Family members say although building back was difficult, the decision to do so was not.

"First of all, people need us over here because everything was down. We also need money, too. That's why we opened up again," said Justin Trinh, the owner's son.

Sonny's Shell Station was one of 21 businesses recognized by Biloxi. Councilman George Lawrence handed out the awards and praised business owners for their resolve to stay and rebuild in one of Biloxi's hardest hit areas.

A new program was also launched that will help people build even more businesses in the area, providing loans, grants and other services.

"The program is called Access to Equity. Let me be clear that this program is for low income residents in East Biloxi, so it's not just exclusively for Vietnamese, it's for the entire East Biloxi, the Biloxi Area, but specifically for low income folks," said James Bui, Regional Director of NAVASA.

Biloxi's 21st Vietnamese-owned business, Diane's Beauty Salon, just opened Friday.