Lee's Sandwiches was started by the Le (Vietnamese: Lê) family in San Jose, California, after immigrating from Vietnam to San Jose in 1980. After several years of working in a catering truck, Lê Văn Chiêu and Lê Văn Hướng operated their own truck and later began their own mobile catering distribution business named Lee Bros. Foodservices, Inc. They anglicized their surname to "Lee" for business purposes. In 1983, Chiêu and Hướng's parents had success selling bánh mì from their truck, and they decided to open a permanent store originally called Saigon Gourmet. Then in 2001, the family modernized their traditional Vietnamese bakery-cafes to today's concept of Lee's Sandwiches . They eventually expanded to many other cities in California and were the first to franchise the Vietnamese deli-cafe concept.
By 2006, they had expanded into Arizona, Texas, and Oklahoma and continued to focus on areas with significant Vietnamese-American populations. They also had plans to expand in the Pacific states of Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, though the Washington expansion had not come to fruition by 2015.
In March 2006, the largest Lee's Sandwiches location opened in Houston, Texas, at 10,000 square feet (930 m²). A long line was formed in anticipation of the grand opening of the first Lee's Houston location.
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