Hornbacher’s 74, Moorhead, Minnesota : Cung Lian

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Chef: Cung Lian
Store: Hornbacher’s 74
City: Moorhead, Minnesota
Average Weekly Sales: $5,000

How I started
I started literally the day after my high school graduation in Indiana. It was June of 2014, and we’d bought an airplane ticket from Indianapolis to Fargo weeks before I graduated. I took over my aunt and Uncle’s Fargo Hornbacher’s, working with them for a few weeks before my dad arrived. He actually quit his job to come help. Five months later, my mom joined us when we got the new Hornbacher’s just across the river in Minnesota. I still help out relatives in other Hornbacher’s stores sometimes.

Where I’m from
I was born in Burma, and during my high school years my parents raised my two brothers and me in Indianapolis.

What it was like moving to America
I spoke zero English when I arrived in 2009, so, as you can imagine, it was pretty tough. Unlike a lot of immigrants, I didn’t really have any friends who’d come from my birth country, so I had a lot of American friends who helped me out and taught me a lot. [Editor’s Note: Chef Cung’s spoken English, after only seven years, is rather amazing.]

The toughest thing about operating a Snowfox kiosk
I’m comfortable with most of this job, but the hardest skill to learn the first few weeks of training was cutting the raw fish professionally and perfectly. I’d also say it’s tough training someone else at the same time you’re running the business. After working with my aunt and uncle for a month, I then had to teach my dad. He didn’t have any experience with sushi, so we had to get up really early and went home pretty late.

How I feel about having a family-operated business
When I was in high school, I always thought, “What should I do?” and wondered what my dream career would be. And I’m so thankful that my dad spoke to my aunt, and she said, “If he doesn’t go to college, this is the best opportunity for him so he can create and own his own business.” The thing about the job market I would’ve faced is that there’s still some discrimination if you have an accent. And even if you’re willing to do physical labor, like in a warehouse, they’re always looking for someone bigger, taller, stronger… So I’m really proud of my family for recognizing this opportunity.

What the next five years look like
My family and I would love to buy another sushi bar, teach more people in order to help grow our sales and business, and share the opportunities we’ve had. If Burma becomes a democracy, I’d even like to talk to Snowfox about expanding there.

The best thing about being a Snowfox franchisee
In the sushi business, all you have to worry about is your job and your customer. In any other business, it doesn’t matter how hard you work, they pay you the same. In sushi, the harder you work, the more you earn. I want to really work hard, and I want to earn more.

How I know when we’re doing it right
I’m really happy right now because customers give us a lot of compliments by telling the store manager. They’re always smiling and saying nice things, which makes the job more fun. But we never relax too much. We want our store to be the best. My dad told me when I started, “We have to work harder than anyone else. Because there are people out there that we’re competing against that you can’t even see. We have to stay on top!”