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Anny Dang is the epitome of energy; an innovative hard-worker with a pull-herself-up-by-the-bootstraps story not unlike that of the neighborhood her restaurant now calls home. Her family's business, Huynh Restaurant, is one of the most acclaimed Vietnamese eateries in the city, boasting glowing reviews from critics and consumers alike. This month, the Dang family opens Ahn Gift Shop immediately adjacent to the restaurant, offering beautiful and eclectic jewelry, homewares, decorative accents, and art from their home country. Just how did Anny Dang, born decades ago in Quang Ngai, Vietnam, become an inhabitant of EaDo?

After fleeing Vietnam in 1990, Anny and her family landed in Houston and eventually became the owners of Pho Huynh Restaurant in Midtown, run by Anny's mother Van Bui and staffed by the rest of the family. Although a popular spot for traditional, home-cooked Vietnamese fare, the restaurant closed its doors after 10 years of operation when rent in Midtown rapidly rose. Two years ago, after searching all over for a new location, the eatery reopened in EaDo as Huynh Restaurant, occupying a former noodle house that the family spent 6 months remodeling themselves.

Customers come daily from near and far to sample the fresh food, and the dining room is filled with a diverse array of businessmen, Asian immigrants, families, police officers, young professionals, artists, and every walk of life in between. According to Anny, "We've had a great reception from the EaDo locals and workers from Downtown, but we also have a lot of loyal regulars who drive in from all over Houston."

Anny and her family are pleased with the progression of EaDo, and are excited to see the infrastructure improvements associated with the new Dynamo Stadium. Clearly, Anny's appreciation of the neighborhood goes beyond the success of just her family's endeavors, given her far more participative community role as a current Board Member of the East Downtown Management District. "EaDo still has so much untapped potential," she answers, when asked her favorite things about her restaurant's new home, "We also love EaDo's cool, artsy, and eclectic vibe. Plus, with 59, 45, and I-10 so accessible, it's close to everything!"

The new gift shop next door to Huynh stocks ample interesting items, most of which Anny and her family members find while on their trips to Vietnam. Explaining her inspiration to delve into retail, Anny explains, "We think our restaurant and gift shop will have good synergy. After all, our guests at Huynh much like Asian things, right? We come across cool things when we travel and now it's fun to ship them back to help stock the shop!"

Fulfilling the very essence of the "American Dream," born of hard work, determination, and innovation, Anny Dang and her family are thrilled with the success of their family's business and look forward to its future and that of EaDo. Today, Huynh packs in patrons Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner, often with a line out the door. At least now the folks in line will be able to window shop as they wait!

Huynh Restaurant is located at 912 St. Emanuel Street in the heart of EaDo. For more information, please visit www.huynhrestauranthouston.com.

EaDo offers ample answers to the yearly conundrum of where to find interesting ideas for gift giving. From perennial favorites like jewelry and house wares, to specialized gifts like custom furniture and commissioned art and photography, the East Downtown Management District is home to countless retailers, restaurants, and service providers perfect for fulfilling your holiday gift list. Further, shopping locally boosts EaDo's local economy, helping support the many local small businesses that make our neighborhood the vibrant and unique place it is. Now, on to the Gift Guide...!

Anh Gift Shop, EaDo's newest retail addition adjacent to popular Huynh Restaurant, is owned by the restaurant's Dang family and features Asian art, furniture, vases, tea and china sets, pottery, children's clothes, jewelry, accessories and decorative home accents. Almost all inventory hails from the family's native Vietnam, which they find when travelling to their home country, and its proximity to Huynh make it a super convenient spot to hit up before or after a delicious meal next door! Huynh Restaurant and the Gift Shop are located at 912 St. Emanuel Street, and more information can be found at www.huynhrestauranthouston.com.

EaDo offers several artistic outlets where cultural creations perfect for gifting are available for sale. Shoppers seeking an edgy but beautiful custom piece of art need look no further than Aerosol Warfare gallery at 2110 Jefferson, Ste. 113. Aerosol Warfare houses many existing pieces ready to be purchased, however, the gallery can also be commissioned to create custom work from smaller pieces to large mural installations. Much of the gallery's work on sale is viewable in its online gallery at www.aerosolwarfare.com.

Tickets to shows at Barnevelder Movement/Arts Complex (www.barnevelder.org) are perfect for the folks you know who love dance and other performance arts, whereas music lovers in your life will enjoy live music tickets to shows at Warehouse Live (www.warehouselive.com), Meridian (www.meridianhouston.com), or Super Happy Fun Land (www.superhappyfunland.com).

Photographer Jim Olive's business, Stockyard Photos (www.stockyard.com) offers a variety of photographic and printing services. Stockyard also sells a huge number of high-resolution prints from Olive's seemingly endless catalogue of subject matter, including Houston's skyline, sporting events, nature/the environment, "Texana" and Texas flag shots, and pictures of events, parades, and the arts in Houston and beyond! Visits to Olive's EaDo showroom are by appointment only, so check out the Stockyard website, take a look at what's available, and then give them a call to see his world-renowned work in person!

For the gourmand on your list, EaDo's restaurant supply companies provide the necessary tools for preparing and presenting excellent and exotic culinary creations. Kitchen Depot (www.kitchendepot.net) at 2118 Lamar Street stocks a wide array of items perfect for gifting, like beautiful presentation pieces, platters, china, flatware, plus cooking equipment and utensils like woks, dumpling steamers, and knives. A short two blocks away sits

Northwest International Corp. (www.northwestintl.com) at 2105 McKinney, offering a similar inventory of restaurant supplies for large or small scale cooking, divided into Japanese, Chinese, and Modern categories. Northwest International goes a step further than most supply outlets, selling specialized serving pieces like wooden sushi plates and platters and beautiful Bento Boxes. Asian-style tables and chairs are also available, plus hand-carved decorative wood panels and small and large-scale enamel, crystal and silk art. Northwest's award-winning designer, William Chang, is also available for hire for custom kitchen design and installation.

Non-culinary house wares are also always a popular genre for gifts, and EaDo boasts outposts for home accessories and materials for projects large and small. What better way to please a loved one during the holidays than to give a framed portrait to a family member, a rare vintage furniture piece to a collector, or a room renovation to a significant other?

Finding the perfect piece of furniture has never been easier with EaDo Custom Sofas, (www.eadocustomsofas.com) a one-of-a-kind business offering more than 200 designs of contemporary, high-quality custom upholstered furniture at affordable prices, giving customers the ability to customize style, size, fabric, and cushion firmness for any piece of furniture. For those seeking more immediate gratification, and super-cool furniture, to boot, Re│mod (www.remodshop.com) sells vintage mid-century modern and beautifully designed objects of years past, including seating, tables, desks, lighting, and accessories. The company's goal to "rediscover, reuse, and introduce," is amply accomplished by refurbishing finds from yesteryear, while they will soon launch a program to promote local designers who create new objects. Finally, Finger Furniture's Flagship Store (www.fingerfurniture.com), the self-proclaimed "largest furniture store in Texas," at 4001 Gulf Freeway is fantastic for folks seeking the adventure of shopping its enormous 600,000 sq. ft. inventory that encompasses "over 10 acres and 500 room settings."

Several businesses in the area focus strictly on home décor and accessories, like family-owned International Picture Frames Wholesale (www.intlframes.com) at 3204 Polk Street, which specializes in custom frames, framed mirrors, digital framing, framing supplies, plus glass, mirrors, and mats. Sweeney Marble Co. at 2401 Polk Street stocks row upon row of huge slabs of granite and marble, perfect for an easy but effective bathroom or kitchen update, and Carpet Giant's Stocking Warehouse (www.carpetgianthouston.com) at 3407 Gulf Freeway sells a "giant" selection of carpet, tile, wood, and laminate flooring, all installed within one day, so you don't have to worry about your gift making it in time for Christmas! Finally, JMI Custom Blinds (www.jmicustomblinds.com) is a full-service window treatment company ready to improve any room of your home or office with sophisticated yet functional shades. The focus at JMI is on customer service, which is evident in their "shop at home" service for which they bring all samples to the room that's being updated, to ensure a perfect fit.

If you plan to assemble, install, or build a home-improvement gift, or if you simply wish to give a gift to that "handy" person in your life, there's no better place to shop for tools or have tools repaired than Power Tool Service Co. (www.powertoolservice.com). This family owned business at 3718 Polk Street sells, rents, and repairs over 50 major tool brands like Bosch, Fuji, Hitachi, Kango, Panasonic, and Viking. Unlike most "big-box" stores, they also stock every brand's entire product line, not just popular items, to ensure customers find exactly which tool they're seeking.

There are plenty of businesses in EaDo offering less traditional products one might not automatically think of for gifting, but that would surely please the recipient, all the same. For instance, gifts galore for kids and the young-at-heart can be found at Frankel's Costume (www.frankelcostume.com) at 2801 Polk Street. Appropriate for much more than just Halloween, Frankel's stocks children and adult costumes and accessories, plus magic tricks and other magic gear, a variety of hand-puppets, gags and novelties, decorations and party supplies, stage makeup, and even a huge selection of ventriloquist dolls! This is the perfect place to buy gifts for a budding magician, a kid (or grown-up) who likes playing dress up, or that wacky uncle who loves to play pranks on his friends and family! Another interesting idea can be found at Houston Electric Cars (www.houstonelectriccars.net), where environmentally savvy shoppers can make a big impact with their gift! Houston's only electric car dealership sells several electric car lines, converted gas-to-electric vehicles, plus conversion packages for do-it-yourself projects. Gift certificates are also available at EaDo's dozens of homegrown restaurants and bars, providing a great gift or stocking stuffer for anyone on your list!

Finally, philanthropic endeavors always warm the heart, especially during the holiday season. Donations to local organizations like the Star of Hope Mission (www.starofhope.org), Loaves and Fishes (www.magnificathouse.org) the Latino Learning Center (www.latinolearningcenter.org), and The Last Organic Outpost which maintains EaDo's Emile St. Community Farm(www.lastorganicoutpost.com) are all worthy recipients of holiday donations made in your friends' and/or family members' honor; certainly a noble gift for anyone on your list.

Each month, we cover highlights of what's happening in EaDo, and we link to the full calendars of the area's various venues.  If your venue is not listed and you'd like for it to be, please contact us at info@eadohouston.com.

Warehouse LiveDecember 3 – Dance Houston & Warehouse Live present "H-Town Get Down" featuring Houston's best dance crews and hip hop artists; December 6 – hip-hop duo Insane Clown Posse, known for their elaborate live performances; December 28 – up-and-coming folk singer/songwriter Hayes Carll; December 29 – Independent funk/rock band 100 Monkeys; and on December 31 – 94.5 The Buzz hosts their 7th annual BLT New Year's bash!  For full listings, visit:
Warehouse Live >

Super Happy Fun Land
December 2 – Noted Texas artist Arthur Yoria plays, plus California acts Moomaw & Gravid Wives; December 9 – SHFL presents the Refuel Indie Houston Fest & Conference Showcase from 10 AM to 6 PM; December 31New Year's Noise event with 10 live bands.  For full listings, visit:
Super Happy Fun Land >

Francisco's Studio and Gallery
3rd Sundays of the month feature an open house with live graffiti painting, body painting, sketching, and a DJ. Check them out at 2300 McKinney at Dowling. 

EaDo Board Meetings are on the 2nd Tuesday of every other month, the next being 8:00 a.m., Tuesday, January 11, 2010 at Huynh Restaurant – 912 St. Emanuel St.