David Duong, founder of Oakland-based California Waste Solutions, is one of the most successful Vietnamese businessmen in the East Bay.
His story began on April 30, 1975. Mr. Duong’s father owned a recycling company and the biggest paper mill in South Vietnam. The family businesses vanished overnight when their property was seized during the fall of Saigon.
Then 15, Mr. Duong and his family escaped in a boat with just the clothes on their backs. The family came to the U.S. after years in a Philippine refugee camp, landing n San Francisco’s Tenderloin District.
“We had 16 family members residing in two studio apartments,” he said. “We had no sponsorship so it was challenging. But we had our family, safety and freedom in the United States.”
At age 19, he quickly learned the road to success was paved with cardboard, not gold. “After school, we would go around 7 a.m. or 8 a.m. and collect cardboard until midnight,” he said.
He and his family collected cardboard every day for three years to purchase their first recycling warehouse in West Oakland.
“From this cardboard here, it started our business today,” he said.
A businessman committed to the Oakland community, one of the ways Mr. Duong is showing his love for the city is by helping to support the Oakland symphony’s upcoming program, “Notes from Vietnam.”
According to Oakland Symphony Music Director Michael Morgan, “The Notes from…series explores symphonic music both new and traditional from cultures that may be less well known to audiences. It is also about making connections to groups of people I would like to see better represented at our concerts, our goal always being to have our audience reflect our complete community. An orchestra should be used to bring a community together.”
The Notes from . . . series has become a popular mainstay of the Bay Area music scene.
Oakland City Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney said, “David Duong embraced the American dream and turned that dream into a reality which now provides jobs and opportunities for hundreds of other Oaklanders. We truly appreciate Mr. Duong’s sponsorship of the Oakland Symphony’s Notes from Vietnam and his support for the arts in Oakland.”
Says Mr. Duong, “The Notes from Vietnam concert will provide the audience with a view of my county, Vietnam, through the lens of symphonic music. Music is a great equalizer among people, culture, and it is essential to our vibrant Oakland community.”
“Saigon was my home, and my heart is here in Oakland.”
The Oakland Symphony will present “Notes from Vietnam” Friday, Feb. 12, 8 p.m. at the Paramount Theater, 2025 Broadway in Oakland. For information and tickets go to www.oaklandsymphony.org