Owning a restaurant or café is a lot more tangible than just having talent for a few local entertainers
Some Ho Chi Minh City celebrities aren't letting the global economic slowdown stop them from branching out into business. A few of them have moved into hospitality rather than following their predecessors into media or recording.
Baby faced Dan Truong, one of the most famous pop singers in Vietnam with a 15 year career behind him, will soon open his first music-coffee shop called #Bo Music, named after his nickname, Bo, on Le Van Sy Street in District 3, HCMC.
Truong is a highly respected performer and was chosen to be the Vietnamese tourism ambassador for the Netherlands and the Taiwan Consulate General, so everyone anticipates his café will be a big hit when it starts. The huge amount of fans supporting him is a guarantee for success.
"Everything is ready, but the opening ceremony has been postponed one or two months due to the street barriers. Starting a coffee shop business, I want to offer my customers the latest international remixes and music videos from American Promo Only Company, of which I am a part."
Famous actress Kim Thu poses with a giant lobster in front of her seafood restaurant in District 4
"I will also display my collection of memorabilia from several singing tours. I hope the customers will like them," said Truong.
Other singers turned coffee-shop-owners are Siu Black and Ngoc Anh. Siu Black, an ethnic singer famous for 20 years for her strong voice and wild performing style, has been the female jury member on Vietnam Idol for two seasons. She opened Siu Black Coffee on Tan Binh District's Cuu Long Street at the end of May.
"It is time to own something. I can't help laughing when I look at my coffeehouse's décor. What a jungle! Maybe it is the one-off type that attracts the crowds. At first, the customers didn't know it was my café. Then they found out and told their friends to come."
The 41-year-old singer has also acted in several films.
She played a teacher in the romantic comedy fantasy Giai cuu than chet (Hot Kiss 2), the sequel to the blockbuster film Nu hon than chet (Hot Kiss), directed by Nguyen Quang Dung and a vicious vixen in the action flick Huyen thoai bat tu (The legend is alive) earlier this year.
Ngoc Anh was the first runner-up of Vietnam Idol's first season in 2007 and Nhen (Spider) café is his first attempt at owning a business. This Idol "zero to hero" disappeared off the radar in 2008 to get Nhen Café started.
Distinctly decorated in black, red and white cobwebs, Nhen café is an ideal gathering place for fans to sip coffee and meet their "Idol" in person.
Singer Quang Dung, known best for crooning romantic oldies at a time when the local music scene was dominated by teen pop and lollipop songs, has created a place to ruminate the meaning of love, life and loneliness.
Dung's QD Bar and Lounge at 138 Ton That Dam Street, District 1 boasts a wide range of vintage red wine and is mainly a place for "lonely souls to drift away in music and wine."
But the most outstanding turn around from stage to service is Kim Thu's seafood restaurant Bien Nho (Ocean in remembrance) at Nha Rong Port in District 4. Thu is a familiar face in many Vietnamese films, including some blockbusters like Ao lua Ha Dong (The white silk dress), Duong ve (The way home), De muon (Rent to bear), Khi dan ong co bau (When men get pregnant), Phat tai (Phat and Tai), Vo lam truyen ky (Swordmen).
The eye-catching mother of two just decided she wanted to start a restaurant.
"Knowing that I have opened the restaurant, many fans and friends came to support it. I really feel grateful for everyone's kindness. I have a busy schedule but I always try to stay at the restaurant as much as possible to welcome customers. After eating, patrons usually invite me to their tables and take some pictures. It is really cheerful," said Thu.
Getting away from the entertainment industry has other unexpected benefits as well.
"My business is a chance for me to create job opportunities for others," Siu Black said.
Her café is like a second home for friends and family working there.