Connect with us


Local Business Leader Sees Balance as the Key to Peachtree Corners Longevity



Photos by George Hunter.

Photos by George Hunter.

As a refugee fleeing the war in Vietnam, Tim Le never envisioned the life he has today. With his wife Amy, they have a real estate business with officers in Peachtree Corners and Duluth.

Possibly more important, he is an advocate for the American dream for those with comparable stories as his — and for those who’ve never had to endure the uncertainties of a poverty-stricken homeland.

Hard choices to get to safety

Le came to the U.S. in 1982 when he was nine after leaving Vietnam by boat. He said it was it was an extremely dangerous time, so the family traveled in small groups. Le was with his parents, and his sister was with an uncle.

“We had to separate the families to minimize the risk. In times of turmoil, you have to make a decision — and then no matter how hard it is, you just have to stick with it,” Le said. “And that’s what our whole extended family did.”

Slowly, they put together their escape plans and eventually left, he said. “But my sister took it very hard.”

In the Vietnamese culture, family unity is extraordinarily strong so the abandonment his sister felt at the time has remained. “I’m sure they didn’t make that decision lightly,” said Le. “But she was only six at the time and it cost so much money to leave. I have two other sisters that had to stay back.”

Through the journey, a cousin’s boat sank. Everyone perished except one survivor who chose to live in Canada. She was just a teen at the time, and recently revealed to the family that she had been raped by pirates before eventually finding a home.

“These things that happened long ago stay with us,” said Le. “You think you’ve gotten over them and sometimes they bubble up years later.”

That’s one reason family and community responsibilities mean so much to Le.

From California to Georgia

His family was sent to Chicago for a little while, but ended up in California, where Le met his wife in junior high school.

Le completed San Bernardino High School in 1990 before going to college at California Polytech Pomona, where he graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1995. “Since then, I have worked as a Senior Equipment Engineer for NEC Electronics USA and eventually became an entrepreneur and real estate investor,” he said.

Although California presented many opportunities, it was fraught with challenges. “California is really tough because everything is so expensive,” said Le. “That is why we feel so blessed that we live in the state of Georgia, especially Peachtree Corners. …I feel safe in business. The regulations and everything are pretty good.”

In California, Le said he grew up in the ghettos. When he and his wife became professionals, the competition was almost unbearable. “Competing just to climb that ladder, the corporate politics is tough, especially if you’re a minority,” he said. “I did my time and then in 2001, we had a recession. The internet bubble burst.”

He obtained a real estate license and began investing in properties. Le is quick to point out that he wasn’t a flipper. “Flipping is just doing a job, but if you hold onto real estate for the long term, that’s an investment,” he said.

With real estate costs so exorbitant in California, it took all their savings, plus borrowing from friends and family, just to get the 50% down payment to get the credit for the remaining cost. “We had to get everything out just to do one project. So, we were like, ‘Let’s look at another option,’” said Le.

In the 1990s, his uncle sponsored hundreds of families who had been in refugee camps to come to the United States. Many bypassed California because the jobs were so hard to come by. They started looking to different locations and Atlanta became a huge draw because of the 1996 Olympics.

“We sold our house in California and we were able to bring a significant amount of money with us,” said Le.

We educate them about resources from the mainstream community or chamber. For example, when the SBA EIDL loan program was introduced or the stimulus package came out, our chamber put together a campaign to let the business owners know about the available resources.

Tim Le

Strong community ties

The couple continued in the real estate business and now the family is entrenched in the community. Le has been on the Gateway Community Improvement District board since 2012 and he is a member of the Gwinnett Rotary Club. He is also involved with the Vietnamese community and the Asian American and Pacific Islanders activities.

Le serves on the board of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, the Peachtree Corners Downtown Development Authority, Leadership Gwinnett and the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce.

Both Tim and Amy are involved with nonprofit organizations that are focused on helping new refugees that come to the United States, as well as the Vietnamese American Chamber of Commerce, to help other business owners from their country be more effective and more efficient.

“We educate them about resources from the mainstream community or chamber,” said Le. “For example, when the SBA EIDL loan program was introduced or the stimulus package came out, our chamber put together a campaign to let the business owners know about the available resources.”

They even helped businesses fill out the application.

Building business in Peachtree Corners

Le’s Peachtree Corners office is another example of making the best of a dire situation. “It was vacant for …a few years. The grass in the front …was like six feet high. It got put on the market, so we put in an offer and then the owner went into bankruptcy,” Le said.

After a long process, the property finally became his and the company rehabbed it into mid-level office space.

“We took a blighted property and then turned it around, and we brought a whole bunch of businesses into the building,” said Le. “It brings a lot of tax revenue into the city.” Peachtree Corners doesn’t have a residential property tax, so the revenue that comes from business licensing is significant.

“We have pretty good leadership that makes the city grow without increasing or establishing the city tax,” he said. Le added that he believes in the city government’s vision and is confident that some of the issues, such as affordable housing, staffing issues and safety, will get resolved.

“There’s a reason why I also serve on the Department of Community Affairs,” Le said. “We deal with Section Eight, and the problem is we don’t have funding to subsidize housing for low-income families.”

Le added that there are developers who’d like to establish more affordable housing, but there’s a way to do it that will fit in with the city’s master plan. “We’re already seeing development projects that are mixing business and residential, but in a different way,” he explained. “That’s a healthy community.”

“We just have to keep balance in mind, and we won’t have to look to different counties or other parts of Gwinnett for our labor force,” Le continued. “We can accommodate them right here. Peachtree Corners is a wonderful place. I’m confident it will remain so.”

Honoring his heritage and his adopted country

Although Le loves his adopted country, his family keeps many aspects of their culture alive. For example, he and his wife speak to each other in both English and Vietnamese. His parents prefer to converse in Vietnamese when interacting with the family.

“My parents lived in Rialto, California where my father was in the landscape, and later the water purification, business until they moved to Norcross in 2005,” Le said. “We are blessed to have them in Georgia.”

He added, “I am grateful for the Americans that fought for democracy and freedom throughout the world. I am also grateful for America helping and admitting all of the Vietnamese refugees into the United States and giving us the platform to build our foundation to prosper and thrive.”

The friends he has made, the things he’s learned and the opportunities he’s had to prosper and help others mean a lot to Le.

“I think that’s the key — it’s understanding the other culture, because when we understand them, we will have freedom. And the thing is, as human beings when we see somebody that’s different, then we have something against them,” he said. “If you understand them and understand their culture, then it reduces fear,” Le pointed out. “Like our staff here …we have pretty much every nationality represented.”

Arlinda Smith Broady is part of the Boomerang Generation of Blacks that moved back to the South after their ancestors moved North. With approximately three decades of journalism experience (she doesn't look it), she's worked in tiny, minority-based newsrooms to major metropolitans. At every endeavor she brings professionalism, passion, pluck, and the desire to spread the news to the people.

Continue Reading


VyStar Credit Union Continues Growth in Georgia with the Opening of a Peachtree Corners Branch



A grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony is scheduled for May 29, 2024

VyStar Credit Union has to announced that its Peachtree Corners location is now open at 5125 Peachtree Parkway in Peachtree Corners. This is VyStar’s fifth full-service branch in Metro Atlanta and joins branches in Stockbridge, Suwanee, Smyrna and Marietta.

In support of its purpose to “Do Good,” VyStar partners with non-profit organizations across the communities it serves. VyStar will make a $5,000 donation to the Rainbow Village to celebrate the grand opening of the Peachtree Corners branch at the ribbon cutting event in late May.

“VyStar’s first branch in Gwinnett will provide residents and business owners with better banking options, including free checking, access to early direct deposit, great rates, financial wellness education through VyStar’s Financial Fitness initiative, and unbelievable member-centric service that only a credit union can provide,” said VyStar EVP/Chief Operations Officer Chad Meadows.

The Peachtree Corners branch features VyStar’s digital-forward design, which enhances how employees connect with members. This includes interactive touchscreen kiosks that provide financial tools and allow members to quickly explore the latest products, services and rates. 

Lobby and drive-thru hours for the Peachtree Corners branch are Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

VyStar continues to work with local organizations to build up the communities it serves. In Metro Atlanta, that includes supporting the Atlanta Community Food Bank, Junior Achievement of Georgia, Frontline Housing Inc., H.E.R.O. For Children and many others.

“Each time VyStar opens a new branch, it is another opportunity for us to support our purpose to Do Good. With eight full-service branches now in Georgia and our first Contact Center in Metro Atlanta, VyStar is able to provide residents and area businesses with exceptional financial products along with personalized service,” said VyStar SVP/Georgia Market President Janean Armstrong.

VyStar has seven additional locations in Georgia: Marietta, Smyrna, Suwanee, Stockbridge, Brunswick, Savannah and Thomasville, with plans to open branches in Pooler, Kingsland and Peachtree City over the next year.

The credit union is also expanding its services in Florida with a third branch in Tallahassee scheduled to open in May followed by a branch opening in the Lake Nona area in August.

To celebrate the grand opening, the community is invited to a ribbon cutting ceremony on May 29, 2024, at 10:30 a.m. Learn more about the Peachtree Corners branch.

Continue Reading


Kendra Scott Opens New Store At The Forum



Kendra Scott

Kendra Scott is celebrating the opening of its newest store in Peachtree Corners the weekend of May 10 at The Forum.

Upon opening, the 2,263 square foot store will display Kendra Scott’s current collections. The store will also showcase the brand’s unique Color Bar, offering shoppers an interactive experience to create customized jewelry in minutes and leave with it in hand.

Worn by celebrities including Hailey Bieber, Camila Cabello, Mindy Kaling, Zendaya and Kelly Clarkson, Kendra Scott’s collections are known for their custom-created stone shapes, genuine materials and design details.

This will be Kendra Scott’s first store in Gwinnett County, which joins five other retail locations in Georgia.

The brand will continue to show its support for the community through partnerships with non-profits and local businesses. For the grand opening weekend, Kendra Scott Peachtree Corners will host various non-profits for Kendra Gives Back events, donating a percentage of proceeds directly back to the causes.

Kendra Scott hosts more than 10,000 Kendra Gives Back events in retail stores annually and looks forward to establishing relationships and connecting with the Gwinnett County community.

“We’re excited to continue introducing the community to new brands, bites and events at The Forum as part of our vision to create downtown Peachtree Corners. Kendra Scott will be a welcome addition, providing our guests a top-notch experience to shop its unique offerings in person,” said Charlotte Hinton, The Forum marketing manager.

Doors will open on Friday, May 10, at 10 a.m. with celebrations throughout the weekend, including giveback events, gifts with purchase and giveaways. RSVP for more details here.

Upcoming events:

  • Friday, May 10 from 10-12 p.m. – Kendra Scott Peachtree Corners is partnering with The Forum for a VIP event. Supporters who spend $100 will receive a special jewelry gift with purchase.* Guests will also enjoy refreshments from Giulia, The Italian Bakery.
  • Friday, May 10 from 5-7 p.m. – Kendra Scott Peachtree Corners is partnering with the Norcross High School Cheer Team and donating 20% of proceeds. Supporters who spend $100 will receive a special gift with purchase* Guests can also receive a custom embroidered bow from Quiet Hours Embroidery with purchase.
  • Saturday, May 11 from 4-6 p.m. – Kendra Scott Peachtree Corners is partnering with Spectrum Autism Support Group and donating 20% of proceeds. Supporters who spend $100 will receive a special gift with purchase.* Guests will also enjoy complimentary cotton candy from Wonder Soirée with every purchase.
  • Sunday, May 12 from 12-2 p.m. – Kendra Scott Peachtree Corners is celebrating the Community of Motherhood. Supporters who spend $100 will receive a special gift with purchase.* Guests will also receive a complimentary Mother’s Day bouquet of flowers from Nancy’s Flower Truck.

*One per person while supplies last.

Kendra Scott Peachtree Corners is located at 5155 Peachtree Parkway, Suite 710 in Peachtree Corners at The Forum. For companywide updates and product details, follow @kendrascott on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Continue Reading


BRACK: Peachtree Corners to lose Peterbrooke Chocolatier



Scottt Gottuso and Geoffrey Wilson.
Scottt Gottuso and Geoffrey Wilson. Photo provided.

Peachtree Corners will soon lose one of its most iconic, popular and tasty businesses.

Peterbrooke Chocolatier, run by Geoffrey Wilson and Scott Gottuso, has been told by Peachtree Forum landlords, North American Properties and Nuveen Real Estate, that its lease will not be renewed. The last day of business will be July 25.

Meanwhile, Peachtree Forum is getting several new stores. They include Kendra Scott, Sucre, and The NOW Massage. Previously announced were Alloy Personal Training, Cookie Fix, Gallery Anderson Smith, Giulia, Lovesac, Nando’s Peri-Peri and Stretchlab. Wilson adds: “We are not in their big picture.”

Wilson has operated Peterbrooke at the Peachtree Forum for 14 years and Gottuso has been there nine years. They have made the chocolatier profitable and doubled sales. Wilson says: “We turned it around through community involvement and made relationships. We worked with the schools, gave donations, did a lot in the community, and made a difference. We produce most everything we sell in the shop, so it’s labor intensive. We make European-style chocolate treats from scratch from the very best ingredients, package it, make gift baskets, and also sell a lot of gelato.”

Key items include truffles, hand-made caramels, cherry cordials, chocolate-covered cookies and pretzels and strawberries hand-dipped in their own blend of chocolates. (They are all good!) One of Wilson’s and Gottuso’s most iconic products is chocolate popcorn. Once you try it, regular popcorn is tasteless. “We sell a lot of it.” Wilson adds: “Gelato sales have carried us in the summertime, since there are not many chocolate holidays in the summer.”

Peterbrooke now has five employees, and would like to have 10, but it is difficult to hire people with the skills in chocolatiering. A key part of its business is corporate companies, such as Delta Air Lines and Capital Insight. The Peachtree Corners’ Peterbrooke has corporate customers as far away as Cleveland, Ohio.

The operators were surprised when the Forum owners did not renew its five year lease. “The big decisions were made in Charlotte or Cincinnati, not locally,” Wilson feels. “We were no longer in their big picture. They want new and glitzy, shiny, fancy and trendy.”

The operators plan to start their own chocolate company, to be called “Scoffrey,” and initially sell online, plus have pop-up locations during holidays, and possibly have a booth in other merchants’ stores on occasions.

“Whatever we do would look different. We might rent a space somewhere close by so that people can still have the good chocolate experience with us, but we won’t have a regular audience walking by.”

Another element: the price of chocolate futures has spiked this year, with a bad crop production year. Wilson says: “That is key to our business and a huge cost increase. That doesn’t help.”

Wilson adds that the forced closing of the Peterbrooke location “is something like the death of a friend. But you go to the funeral and to the wake, and in six months or a year, It won’t be so bad.”

Have a comment?  Send to: elliott@elliottbrack

Written by Elliott Brack

This material is presented with permission from Elliott Brack’s GwinnettForum, an online site published Tuesdays and Fridays. To become better informed about Gwinnett, subscribe (at no cost) at GwinnettForum

Continue Reading

Read the Digital Edition


Peachtree Corners Life

Topics and Categories


Copyright © 2024 Mighty Rockets LLC, powered by WordPress.

Get Weekly Updates!

Get Weekly Updates!

Don't miss out on the latest news, updates, and stories about Peachtree Corners.

Check out our podcasts: Peachtree Corners Life, Capitalist Sage and the Ed Hour

You have Successfully Subscribed!