By Marshall V. King
Sok Hou Kao and his wife, Chanliny Dim, drove into Goshen late one night in 1994.
They didn’t speak English or even have a GPS. After getting lost, others stopped traffic for them on the Indiana Toll Road to get back on track.
The couple known as Lucky and Mrs. Lucky packed a U-Haul and brought their dreams and two little boys to Elkhart County because “we heard this is a small town and it’s easy to raise kids here,” said Dim.
They’d both escaped Cambodia into Thailand and met briefly in a refugee camp before getting reacquainted and married in California.
In 1997, they opened a doughnut shop in the former Deboni bakery, which had been an Italian institution in Elkhart, and served hot food that evolved into her offering the food of southeast Asia. Customers came to love his doughnuts and her cooking. They learned to know their customers. “We know each other for a long time,” she said.
Customers coming for pad thai and spring rolls watched their three children grow up. Their son, Siha Kao, is helping at Lucky’s Donuts at 700 W. Bristol St., Elkhart, and his brother, Silong Kao, is preparing to open Kao’s Pâtè Sandwiches & Bubble Tea in downtown Elkhart. Now two grandchildren are growing up at Lucky’s just like the boys did with their sister, Simontha. Growing up in Elkhart gave them opportunities, said Siha.
In recent years, people from all over the world find Lucky’s online as they visit Elkhart County. The come to Lucky’s first for doughnuts. Then they come back for lunch, said Dim.
The community has embraced the family. “Elkhart helped him do business, get it started, get established,” said Siha.
A lot of years have passed since that night they first arrived. They’re part of the community now. They feel grateful — and lucky to have found this place.
Marshall V. King is a free-lance journalist based in Goshen. He wrote this piece for Vibrant Communities.
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