We sat down with Kevin Tran at one of his favourite Vietnamese restaurants to talk about the changing face of Footscray. At his café he barely had a second to spare with people dropping by for their daily coffee.
Where were you born? When did you come to Australia/Footscray?
I was born in the Tra Vinh Province of Vietnam, in the Mekong Delta region, in 1975. I came to Australia when I was 9 years old, then in 1989 when I was 14, my family moved from Sydney to Footscray.
What were your first impressions of this country?
My first impression of Australia was that I loved it. I remember when we landed in Australia, all I wanted was a meat pie. I’d have that every single day – with a nice apple. I didn’t know much about the area when I came to Footscray. Back then, there were lots of Vietnamese and Italians and everyone got along and worked well together. Footscray was very laid back. It has changed a lot. Footscray is more popular now and more people are coming to grow their businesses here. It’s an exciting area, full of opportunity.
What is the history behind your business and what made you want to open it here in Footscray?
I started Scarlet Corner Café three years ago, after working in cafés for nine years and dreaming of running my own place. I never thought I’d have my own café then, one day, I walked past a vacant shop in the Footscray Market building. It was dirty and old. I went to the shop’s management and asked them what was happening with the space then I came home and talked to my wife. I told her my dream and that I thought it had finally come true. Kate supported me, helping me design the café, and my brother helped name the café. When it opened, the response from locals was good. There was lots of support for the Vietnamese iced coffee, ca phe sua da.
Name three ways in which Footscray has changed in the years you have been running your business here.
Footscray had only a few places where could buy a coffee and sit and relax until Scarlet Corner Café opened. The words latte and cappuccino didn’t exist in the Asian area of Footscray until I opened my café and started selling Italian coffee. I like to say I brought the latte and cappuccino to Footscray and people have realised how great Italian coffee is. There’s been a lot of change and Footscray is very good at the moment. There’s lots of building, the roads are much better, there’s more protection, and there’s more businesses – and hopefully a lot more will open here.
Footscray is unique to Melbourne, so if you could take one person/experience/thing out of Footscray and share it with Melbourne, what would it be?
Shopping that is absolutely fresh and very reasonably priced, and the Chinese New Year festival. Every year I’m looking forward to it.
What’s your stance towards food bloggers taking pictures of your food and venue?
I’m proud of people promoting my café because I’m happy to help make this area grow and reach more educated people in the area.
Scarlet Corner Café
Footscray Market, Leeds Street, Footscray VIC 3011