Bac Bui is hoping his former customers' taste buds have long memories.
The owner of Vi-Ann Restaurant, who had to close his doors in Osborne Village nearly two years ago because the building's owner sold it to Shoppers Drug Mart, is ready to re-enter the restaurant game.
The one-time early 1970s boat person from Vietnam will fire up his kitchen today in a new location at 1020 Notre Dame Ave., the former home to a CIBC bank and, most recently, the Cash Store.
Even though many of his faithful customers were up in arms when they heard the nearly 12-year-old Osborne location was closing in mid-2012 and continuously asked him when he was going to reopen when they saw him on the street, he admits to some preopening butterflies.
"Our opening day is (today). I'm so nervous," he said. "I hope my customers will come and see me. I hope they know we're open again."
After not working for nearly two years, Bui hasn't had the budget to do any advertising except for putting up a mobile sign in front of his new store promoting a 10 per cent discount. He had to take out a significant line of credit to get the restaurant off the ground again and was helped by his brother, Nam, who bought the building and suggested he use it for his restaurant.
He has been buoyed, however, by the number of people posting on Facebook and other social media about his reopening.
The new location has 55 seats, down five from Osborne Village, but Bui's not complaining.
"I need to work," he said.
He has rehired his two cooks and brought a couple of waitresses on board. The rest of his staff will consist of his two sons, Brian and Kelvin, barring an unexpected surge in business.
"If it's busy, no problem, I'll hire more people. I hope we get busy," he said.
Bui is going to keep some favourites from his old menu but he's going to add Chinese and Thai food to his offering.
One thing Bui isn't doing, however, is driving by his former site (which was bulldozed and rebuilt as part of Shoppers Drug Mart's multimillion-dollar expansion).
"I was very angry at that time. Even now I don't want to pass by there. There are so many memories there. I lost everything from there. Even two years later, it still hurts me. In one day, everything was gone," he said.