The steam from cooking noodles drifts easily across 7th avenue into the Eliot neighborhood. The pale brick building on the corner of Tillamook doesn’t give much away, only a simple sign in English and Chinese characters – America’s Noodle Inc.
Raymond Foo, the owner, has been cooking noodles on this corner for 12 years. His uncle ran a successful Asian noodle company in New York and wanted to open another. Foo thought Oakland made sense, but his uncle had already settled on an industrial building in Portland. He worried the Asian population wasn’t big enough to sustain another noodle company, but was enjoying the scenery. “So beautiful,” he said, “it looks like my hometown.”
Starting with zero clients was hard at first, but he had just earned a degree in business and finance in Minnesota after moving from Malaysia, and was determined to succeed. He didn’t think he would end up in the noodle industry but he said “I always wanted to own my own business.” He found what was missing in the local market and began filling in those gaps, gaining one customer as a time. Restaurants wanted a crispier wonton wrapper, rice noodles and ramen, and Foo was eager to provide.
Today, the factory employs about a dozen people and makes more than a dozen products. The factory has large metal machines, concrete floors and a small office with post-it covered computers. Occasionally, people stop by the factory hoping to sit down and order some hot noodles, but are disappointed to learn the minimum purchase is 5 lbs. However, there’s a chance when you dine at an Asian restaurant in the area or even as far as Utah and California you’ll be eating a neighborhood made noodle.
By Ruth Eddy