A Mason man is facing a civil suit after pleading guilty to assaulting a competing Vietnamese nail-salon business owner.
John Nguyen, 39, was arrested and convicted of criminal damaging and two counts of assault in the April 12 incident, as The Enquirer’s Kimball Perry reports, below.
A story of chasing the American dream by building a business in the face of fierce competition is playing itself out in adjoining Cincinnati neighborhoods.
So far, it’s resulted in threats followed by a brutal beating, jail time and a lawsuit.
The intense competition is, as always, for thousands of potential customers. But it’s not big business versus big business.
This literal fight for success is between battling Vietnamese-owned nail salons.
“I got beat like a rag doll,” Chanh Luong said.
Luong is manager of Escape Nail Spa in the 3600 block of Hyde Park’s Edwards Road. That’s immediately south of the railroad tracks from Ambiance Nail Salon and Spa in the 2700 block of Madison Road in Oakley. Ambiance and several other area nail salons are owned by John Nguyen. Each can see the other business from their salon.
Luong manages the nail salon, opened April 1, for its owners, including his wife and a group of area Vietnamese investors. The first 10 days of business were so bad that Luong hired a man to wear a billboard announcing 30 percent off of his spa’s services. Luong had the human billboard stand April 12 at the busy intersection of Edwards and Madison roads.
That’s where Nguyen saw it, immediately irritated by a competitor. Nguyen, Luong said, called one of the owners of Luong’s spa and told him to move the human billboard, but Luong, who came to the U.S. in 1986, refused. Luong’s business partner told him to be careful.
Luong then called Nguyen.
“He said I shouldn’t do that,” Luong said of Nguyen. “Hey, it’s America. Freedom of speech, man.”
That’s when Nguyen threatened him, switching between speaking English and Vietnamese, Luong said.
“I told him ‘You run your business, I’ll run mine. We’re competitors. You don’t pay my rent,’ ” Luong said.
Nyguen, who wouldn’t comment for this story, didn’t back down.
“I just laughed,” Luong said. “I said, ‘Look, man, I’m not going to (give in) to you.’ He said ‘Don’t (mess) with me. I’ll kill you and your family.’ I said, ‘I’m not scared of you. This is America.’ He said, ‘We will see’ and he hung up on me.”
Within moments, Luong saw Nguyen and three of Nguyen’s male employees storming toward his nail salon. Nguyen and two of the men punched Luong, beating him so badly that he was hospitalized, forced to wear a neck brace and sported a severe black eye
“He said (in Vietnamese), ‘I’m going to let you know who I am today’ and he punched me in the temple,” said Luong, of Hamilton. “They wanted to beat me up to teach me a lesson, make an example out of me.”
Nguyen went into Luong’s spa, threw an employee to the ground, broke a chair and swept bottles and other equipment off of a counter.
“I was scared but I choose not to be because I didn’t do anything wrong,” Luong said.
Nguyen, 39, of Mason was arrested and convicted of criminal damaging and two counts of assault. Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Ted Berry sent Nguyen to jail for 10 days but suspended the last nine, placed him on probation and ordered him to pay expenses associated with the attack.
Nguyen paid Luong’s $8,000 hospital bill, but, because he later refused to leave a Vietnamese wedding also attended by Luong, he violated his probation. The judge revoked Nguyen’s probation and threw him in the Hamilton County Justice Center until Thursday, when he was released.
“It’s a fair game as long as you don’t break the law. He chose to be a bully about it,” Luong said.
Luong also filed a civil lawsuit against Nguyen stemming from the beating. In court documents, Nguyen denied the allegations even though he pleaded guilty to the criminal charges.
“It’s all about money and a little bit of greed. We’re going to defend this vigorously in court,” Rich Goldberg, Nguyen’s attorney, said of the civil suit.
Business is better for Luong, and he’s proud of standing up to the threat. He keeps a bottle of Advil behind the counter to deal with the headaches he gets after the beating, but he believes it was worth it.
“It’s kind of embarrassing for me to bring this to light, but it needs to be,” Luong said. “Competition makes everybody better.”