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5 Years Owning F.C. Business for Vietnam ‘Boat Person’

Celebrating five years owning and operating his own gas station, car repair and convenience store business in the City of Falls Church, Alan Thai has come a long way since stepping onto a boat on the shores of Vietnam in 1980.

Thai owns Aalan’s Service and the Hillwood Mart at the intersection of Annandale Road and Hillwood Avenue. It is one of the few locations in the area that offers Virginia safety and emissions tests and car repair services seven days a week.

(The location of his business was incorrectly reported in the News-Press two weeks ago as the location of a business owned by Pawan Sanai, a Falls Church man given probation after pleading guilty to financial “structuring” last month.)     

Fleeing his native country after five years detention at a relocation camp, resulting from the communist takeover there, Thai became one of the famous “boat people” who took the courageous but dangerous step of embarking at sea for their freedom.

Thai left with his three sons on a precarious two-day boat ride to Thailand with about 40 others. Once there, he and his sons were assisted by the U.S. government, flying to the Washington, D.C. area, to start a new life.

They settled in Falls Church, where Thai has been ever since, working as a mechanic for Minh Motors on S. Washington Street.

While Thai’s three sons grew up here and have since moved away, one to New York, one to California and one to Texas, he saw his opportunity to go into business for himself at the Annandale-Hillwood location five years ago.

Business has been brisk and growing, he says.

His gas station is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Repair and safety and emissions inspections are open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily and Sunday by appointment.