Mai's re-opens a year after devastating fire

HOUSTON Mai's first opened in 1978 as the city's first Vietnamese restaurant. On Saturday, Mai's happily re-opened its doors to family, friends and customers - after 14 months of perseverance.

The grand re-opening had the feel of a holiday celebration with performers and proclamations and an audience outside of an old restaurant that is new again.

For the family that thought they'd lost everything when their business went up in flames and smoke in February 2010, Saturday was a day they sometimes thought might never come.

"You finally get to this point and you get butterflies, and you get here and it's just like, 'let's get back,'" said Anna Pham, the owner's daughter. "'Normal' couldn't sound any sweeter."

The family says it was their customers who helped them rebuild. Their support and encouragement was every bit as important as the new walls, tables and chairs.

"Somehow we were able to overcome a very tumultuous year and stand here today and say that we have rebuilt and come back," Pham said.

For the restaurant's owner and namesake, the grand re-opening was especially gratifying.

"I feel very excited. This is a day that I've been waiting for to come back," Mai Nguyen said.

Today's celebration included several elected officials and Houston firefighters who responded to the accidental fire 14 months ago. Authorities blamed the blaze on a wok that caught fire in the kitchen.

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