Millennial Entrepreneurs Bring the World to Maine

Story and photographs by Timothy Gillis


A journey of a thousand (miles) starts beneath one’s feet. (from the Tao Te Ching)

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The Tao Te Ching was written in the 6th century B.C.E. but its truths still hold fast today—perhaps never more so than for immigrant millennials trying to start their journeys into the modern marketplace. Every destination, no matter how far, starts with a single step. Incomer magazine spoke with three immigrant, millennial entrepreneurs about their individual journeys to Maine and the experiences they share despite taking different roads to get here.

Hye-Jung Fitzgibbon and Eunjee Park are both from Seoul, Korea, but they met here in Maine after traveling quite different roads. One came to the United States with a business plan all mapped out; the other one charted her moves as she made them.

In the end, they ran up against many of the same hurdles that other millennials do while pursuing happiness in a fast-paced business world with multi-talented contemporaries.

그녀가 말하길 사업을 계획하고 시작 하기 일년은 시장 조사와 사람들과의 만남을 위해 네일사 취업을 되었습니다
그후 일단 사업 경험을 쌓기위해 작은 네일사 오픈 되었습니다

Fitzgibbon moved to Massachusetts twelve years ago where she met her future husband, Kevin, a South Portland native. Shortly thereafter, they moved here with their son, Daniel, and bought a house.

Fitzgibbon dreamed of moving to Maine and owning a beauty salon, but she was determined to first learn the business and build a network of clients. “I wanted to work for someone my first year here,” she said recently from HE Nail and Paint Bar in Portland, the salon she co-owns with Park. “I made good business connections in Portland and Falmouth. I started small to get experience first.”

Park moved to Portland ten years ago. While she loved her domestic life in Maine, she enjoyed her new work at Indulge Salon, where she met Fitzgibbon. She started out working there part-time, she said, “to get out of house, and then I liked it. I never had experience working. I was a full-time home wife.”

They next worked together at Anna Phillips where they made a plan to open their own business. They realized that their individual dreams could be realized easier if they put their energy and enthusiasm together. They inked the deal and the sentiment in 2018, naming their new salon HE Paint and Nail Bar after their first initials. The shopfront sign is a good indication of the connection the two share.

“It was a little challenge at first, with starting a business,” Fitzgibbon said. “But we have our regulars, and new customers come in all the time.”

Quang Nguyen has traveled a long way from Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, where his family raised sea bass and shrimp, to Portland, where he now casts his nets into local business waters. He experienced challenges similar to Fitzgibbon and Park. They all knew their success depended, in great part, on being able to take the lessons they learned at home and put them into practice in Maine.

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“Life was great there,” Nguyen said of his childhood days. “It is a small city, mostly fishing and agriculture. It was known as a strategic seaport in World War II. My family raised sea bass and shrimp.” He fishes for sea bass here also, though Mainers call them “stripers.”

“Với một người mới nhập cư, bạn rất ít được trang bị đầy đủ kiến thức để vận hành một cơ sở kinh doanh mới.”

In 2007, Nguyen came to the United States as an international student bound for Portland. After a wrong turn in Oregon, he was redirected to the original.

He studied Business Administration at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland, but found the adjustment difficult. “I barely spoke any English,” he recalled. “I learned by talking to people. The first six months were a challenge. I was too shy to speak. I learned the hard way to speak to people. I joined the honor society, the International Students’ Club, the Student Senate, and business clubs.”

He also worked part-time at SMCC in the Biology Department, helping them raise brown trout. He says he’s a decent cook, “but my mom is a lot better.” His parents, Hung Nguyen and Hoa Le, live in Portland. He has a brother named Minh who also lives here. His two youngest brothers, Chinh, 19, and Thang, 17, still live in Vietnam. “They stayed for school to get visas,” Nguyen says. “The goal is to come here with a visa and go to college.”

Nguyen graduated from college in 2010, worked at Veranda Thai for a year, and began looking for jobs in the financial or insurance field. He worked for an insurance company on commission, and then, in 2014, he purchased a nail salon in Windham called Star Nails. In 2015, he bought a multi-unit apartment in Portland, where he and his parents reside. In 2016, he bought Village Variety and renamed it Le Variety, after his maternal grandfather.

He credits his family’s influence on his success. When he moved to Maine, he quickly found out that the early risings—for both fish and fishermen—allowed for a packed day of work.

“I had to find out the proper way to do things,” he said when reflecting on his immigrant experience. “I took the necessary paperwork steps, then secured funding. As an immigrant, you’re not taught to know what you need to help with a new business.”

A prize catch came for Nguyen in November 2016 when he became an American citizen. It was a brief celebratory respite, and then he was quickly at it again. In 2016, he started Win Financial Strategies, named after the way his last name is pronounced. In 2018, he decided to share his youthful experiences with his newer neighbors and purchased Fisherman’s Net, a seafood market in Portland.

Nguyen, Fitzgibbon, and Park have set down stakes here in Portland, finding that challenge and success are often two sides of the same coin. That exchange rate does not deter them, however. They are ready to cash in.


Maine Immigrant Stories

Three original stories with photographs on their way featuring new Mainers a poet from Kingdom of Konga, beauticians from South Korea, and a fashion leader from Congo. (original cover art by Joseph Schmalke)

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One Weak at the Cave at Jack’s Cove

Cave at Jacks Cove

By Timothy Gillis

Day 1. Six a.m. and no one’s up. I’m making coffee and reading the newspaper and having a cigarette. The cave at Jack’s Cove is filled with water now. The tide is high and I’m moving on. I wait for the recession and go spelunking with my mom and middle sister, down the green hill behind our new house, across the brown and white and once green fields, onto the path past the stonewalling wooden gate, through the mud down the trail until we reach the round-rocked beach buffeted on both sides by craggy cliffs, and then down to the left where I’m told at low tide the cave emerges, accessible by the seaside. We go the three of us and of course the dog, Wyatt. Slip on seaweed, go slow with coffee thermos, cups of black dark roast, the moon rising on the horizon even though it is midday, and into the cave at Jack’s cove. What will happen?

Day 2. Up early for coffee and cigarette and to run the washing machine, locate my new pen, stolen like Biff Loman in his boss’s office. Now seated in front of the early morning soccer, I roll another smoke, my son still stirring in the bed upstairs. The ocean must be the east, highlights from midweek, and the pen warms to the task, something written before the game gets me back to morning. A short story called “Boxing Day with Heart Rocks.” My heart rocks at Hard Rock. Rocky dog in the cave at Jack’s Cove, around the bend from Sobs’ Corner. The horizon is pink where it meets the water, then lightening as it rises so blue at the shore, deeper and darker until it meets pink orange yellow and into the light sky softer yet same color as the sea seemingly completes the circle, but doesn’t.

Day 3. Sobs’ Corner so called because so many drivers wound up on its rocky wall like whales beached. Boys drive the fast distracted course to tragic adulthood, slowed by nothing but their mothers’ anxiety. Then sped up again by the same beers, same talk of girls, some smoke and the radio blaring songs so familiar. Tackled head-on another car coming so when compensation meets surprise the boys—and the radio now the cell phone one hand driver one-hand texting—and the other car’s driver (no matter the age or experience going slow even to avoid an accident and) overcompensation, sends them back, the carload crashes into the wall at Sobs’ Corner. You get the name.

Day 4. That first time, too, you understand the needle in the year, the sting upon the bee, the first girl’s rejection, the song too long at the dance hall, the wall too close or so far away. The next line rises again to meet the pen. The page comes up and greets the ink, and the resulting composition yellows with age and her. Most times writing about the next one when the pen falls to paper, weak with the coffee’s last gurgle, cream warming on the counter, sugar sitting waiting, spinning in the bowl. The day’s sunset, slowly carnivorously turning today’s plans for toast and bacon and eggs into toast and eggs anyway or at least toast.

Day 5. The game. Everyone else is tuning in tomorrow for the big game, but for me and my ilk: it’s the world version of football, not the American one that they all crave. I make coffee but not a pot, just a single serving Italian roaster. Roll a French cigarette. I add the U to words like colour and favour so sights and assists turn European, give me a foreign name, soothe my stomach with stuff from away. The French cigarette is a spliff, a bozo, with skunk honey weed and Dunhill tobacco. The path out back leads to an American beach, but the rounded rocks on its shore roll under my weight in kilograms not pounds. The sea salt’s come from overseas, the sand’s shifted over there. I sit and sip and smoke and slide from my pocket an Arden classic—Much Ado About Nothing—and open to Act I. What of the rising tide? What for the distant shore? To who the page lifts and turns? And wherefore? The dog sniffs someone else’s dog, the mess he left behind. The cave at low tide, cliff at high, opens and fills out on my left, a No Trespassing sign on the rocks on my right. Richard Brautigan’s 4/17th of a haiku. The coffee cools as the pen’s ink warms.

Day 6. Vert, I go, in green ink. Sit, start from dreams, grab nightstand notebook and pen and write as the sunrise pours yellow light upon the page. The ink is almost gone, victim of a thousand late nights, a dozen false dawns. The temporary job is done. The part-time girlfriend shortly after it. But evening’s images still flicker their Chinese New Year torture, after all the traditional holidays are shut, that last one late one hosted by her friends, who gather and discuss the holidays and work and all the world they’ll see in all the in-betweens. Meanwhile, I rise over the recent sketches. The coffee spurts and gurgles and perks. The foggy cigarette rolls itself, the ocean just woke up while I was relieving, and the dew is rolling back into the woods. His prayer rug matted with his and his father’s knees, frayed at each end – by Judaism on the left, Christianity on the right, rolled now into his mind’s spiritual corner, a naturalist’s wonder. The dog drops his ball, no bounce, and looks for someone to throw it. His master’s gone. “The old dog barks backwards,” the Frosty poet opined, slowed the line with D’s and B’s, so the reader (like the dog) rhymes behind, regrets. I refill my thermos cup without getting up. The poem’s next line fuels the mind. “I can remember when he was a pup.”

Day 7. Red-Letter Day and writing in red ink now. The sun rises angry this morning, up over restless seas and a rocky path walk to its shore. The dog limps behind me, still sleepy and tottering like the young cow from another cold poem. Wyatt still hasn’t eaten his breakfast, the leftovers from last night, and seems to sense the news I’ll get later, that my sister’s dog has died a surprise death, discovered by her daughter, such a sensitive, animal-loving soul. Wyatt’s cousin had lost his job, bringing joy and dancing days to his human mother, sister, brother, and all the dogs gone by. Man’s best friend dies too, it seems, leaving the long walk to the morning shore so much colder and alone. The moon sits opposite, hesitant to go down on the night and its still unbegotten news. The ducks float on by, cackling in the wind and riding today’s crest, then falling on its other side, the coolness like the other side of last night’s pillow, feathers scrunched from last night’s head in its unmade bed. I can hear my mother puzzling away in the other room, the edges of a thousand-piece picture of an image from our younger European days. She persists, puts pieces together although she knows one is missing. I look over the leftover pieces and perceive the shortfall, and then the floor and consider my dog, dying one day too but not for now. For now, just secretly digesting puzzle pieces.

The old, faded photograph


By Timothy Gillis

The old faded photograph – I rip it out of its frame, a small one she gifted me. I fold the photo in half, creating an unsmoothable crease between us. It’s a photo her friend took as she passed us by. We are facing each other in folding seats where the bench in front of the Maine College of Art used to be before the school had it moved when the sideway was repaired, sliding the bench down two notches to in front of the public cable television station. Capitalism and communism arm-in-arm, or at least hesitant bedfellows. The surprise and mutually beneficial union moved the smokers from in front of MECA’s façade, but here we sit smoking anyway.

I am wearing a blue blazer over a white collared shirt with medium blue squares, blue jeans, and loafers with no socks. The shoes were my father’s. I took to wearing them after he died so I could walk in his shoes, you know, literally. I am smoking a cigarette in my left hand; it’s burned about halfway down. On my left wedding ring finger, I wear my dad’s family ring. Heavy. Gold. Destined for my older son, one day, when his fingers are big enough.

She was wearing… well, she could have worn anything she wanted. She is holding my umbrella over her head, wary of the rain and its effects on her auburn curls, graying but deterred by a home coloring hair kit. I am mid-ramble, smiling, sallow-cheeked. She looks on with what at first appears to be a smile but is, in fact, upon closer inspection, a grimace – half pained wince; half jeer; with a dollop of readiness to countermand, just for good measure.

In the background, a bike is locked up at the bike rack. Security and order. A newspaper stand gives away free copies of itself. It’s not the newspaper for which I write. Proximate is a circular trashcan, a more fitting receptacle for my own words.

And now, I try to conjure in letters what she was back then and where she is now. In the photograph, it was raining. Real or figurative moisture later damaged her half of the picture. Was it me who left it out in the Maine Spring? Did I cause her to wither and fade? Or did she fade from me of her own accord? I cannot seem to find the right letters to force out an answer. Maybe I will never know. Maybe I am not supposed to. Or maybe the search will produce answers to other questions I would have been better all along asking. I fold the photo back in half and place it in my left breast pocket. I head outside for a cigarette, a quick puff, and the lightning that smoking inhales.

Texas Chainsaw Chili Contest

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Leatherface signs books, serves chili at Coast City Comicon

By Timothy Gillis

Gunnar Hansen, the actor who played Leatherface in “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” will be appearing at this year’s Coast City Comicon, to sign autographs and discuss his new book. The comic book convention is at the DoubleTree in South Portland on Nov. 9 and 10. He will also host a chili cook-off and enter a concoction of his own recipe.

Fans of this spooky genre know Hansen’s alter ego, the intimidating Leatherface from the most famous horror film in history. Hansen also appeared in “Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers” with fellow Coast City Comicon guest Linnea Quigley. Following a screening of their film, fans can participate in a Q&A session with Hansen and Quigley.

As part of Hansen’s appearance, he’ll be posing for photos with fans all weekend, and promoting his new book, which gives a compelling retelling of the making of the film and the reception it received in 1974.

“Chain Saw Confidential” is confidently written and engaging. It opens with an overt allusion to “Moby-Dick” by Herman Melville, whose own hero was also disconsolate and looking for a sea change.

“Call me Leatherface. Some years ago – never mind how long precisely – having little or no money in my purse and nothing particular to interest me otherwise, I thought I would do a little acting and see how movies were made. Even once in a while, when the world gets to be too much and I start to feel a bit spleeny, I feel the need to lift my spirits by killing someone,” the book begins. It goes on to debunk many of the myths surrounding the movie – that it was based on a true story, that the stars made millions, and that someone died during filming.

Hansen, for all the notoriety, did not make much money for his part at the chain saw-wielding maniac who carves up a van full of teenagers and devours them with his crazed family.

“Back then, $10,000 or $15,000 would have meant the world to me,” Hansen said from his home on the coast of Maine last week. The movie’s backers were connected to the Colombo crime family in New York, and even a badass like Leatherface wasn’t going to tangle with them over a contract dispute.

The making of the film was horrific enough. Filmed in the Texan heat that often reached higher than 100 degrees, “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” was directed by Toby Hooper, who used method acting throughout the filming. He worked overtime to keep the actors in character and, especially, kept those who played victims away from the Chain Saw family, and Leatherface, in particular. Hansen spent many hours alone on the set between shots.

“My feeling was ‘he doesn’t trust his actors if he thinks they need to be genuinely frightened. I felt that was not a very insightful way to approach actors,” said Hansen. He conceded that Alfred Hitchcock had resorted to such measures when filming “The Birds,”

but he thought Hooper went too far in an unnecessary direction.

“When I interviewed for the role, Toby asked me if I was violent, if I was crazy. That concerned me. Does he think I need to be violent or crazy to act this part?” said Hansen, whose family moved from Iceland to Searsport when he was five years old. He subscribed to Looney Tunes comic books as an early way to learn English.

When approached for the film role, Hansen was a college student in Texas, delving into the poetry of T.S. Eliot.

“I tried to write short stories as a kid. In college, I was really interested in poetry, and was poetry editor on a magazine in Austin,” he said. He has published a chapbook of poems called “Bear Dancing on the Hill.” and has forayed into film, working on several documentaries.

“I started out writing them, and then directed and produced them as well,” Hansen said. “Of all of those functions, it was the writing I enjoyed the most.”

For the comic book convention, Hansen gets to get back into his Leatherface character. In addition to posing for pics and signing his new book, Hansen will also host a chili cook-off.

Jarrett Melendez, of Coast City Comics, said, “We’re tired of the conventions that just plop movie stars behind a table and have them sign stuff. We like being able to provide a more intimate experience for fans. They won’t just get herded through a line and shoved away before they can manage a quick ‘Hello.’ They can actually take a minute and talk with idols like Gunnar. Heck, they can even taste food that he made! You don’t get that at national shows like New York Comic Con or San Diego Comic Con.”

“I’ll bring some of my own chili down,” Hansen said. “I’m hoping we can set it up as a blind testing. I’d like to find out if people like my chili. If they don’t, I can always say, ‘Well, they’re not from Texas, so they don’t know chili.’ There aren’t any beans in Texas chili.”

When asked about the secret ingredient in his chili, Hansen said, “The only beans in my chili are human bein’s.”