"Little Vietnam" businesses still shuttered in wake of fire

Four once bustling businesses are still dormant seven weeks after fire ravaged storefronts at 1110-114 W. Argyle St.

Fire officials say the Aug. 6 blaze is still under investigation. They refused further comment.

It is unclear when the property will be rebuilt and when the establishments -  a herbal remedy store, a Chinese/Vietnamese restaurant, a market and real estate company - will be back in business at the site, if ever.

"We're losing a lot of customers," says Henry Dang, whose family for 25 years has leased 1112 W. Argyle St., for Vihn Tho, the Chinese herbal medicine store. They have set up in a temporary location.

Today, the charred storefronts are adorned by a phone service advertisement in Vietnamese and posters advertising a brand of vodka.

The property in the Uptown neighborhood has been dormant since the Aug. 6 fire that left the property completely damaged, pushing businesses into limbo.

Dang says the buildings will have to be torn down and rebuilt because of extensive damage.

Adjustment company announcements on the Vihn Tho store and Tien Giang restaurant are the only visible indications of slow progress. The rebuilding project could take six to eight months to complete, Dang says.

For now, the family is just "sitting at home waiting" for the property to be assessed and rebuilt, Dang says.

The other affected store owners could not be reached for comment. Phone numbers for Mien Hoa Market and Tien Giang restaurant are disconnected.

Steve Trinh, who owns the affected property, was out of the country when the fire occurred. He says renters are working with insurance agencies on their own, Trinh says.

Trinh says he did not know if the same renters would continue their businesses at the location. He says he would offer them the space first once renovations are complete.

Rumors and comments about the Aug. 6 fire appeared the same day on an online message board for culinary enthusiasts in Chicago. Several postings on LTHForum.com inquired whether Sun Wah, located at 1134 W. Argyle, was also affected. However, the Asian-style barbecue restaurant was undamaged.

One member of the message board, "jbambuti," posted the following: "While being thankful for the non-demise of Sun Wah, let's also remember that, although possibly not our favorite restaurants or businesses on the block, several families have lost their livelihoods. A neighborhood rich in culture is a bit poorer."

Alderman Mary Ann Smith, D-48, whose district includes the neighborhood, did not return calls seeking comment.

One person was injured in the incident, fire officials say, but they declined further comment until after the investigation is complete.