Linh Reiter, owner of the Classic Inn restaurant in Great Bend, believes in the American Dream.
Born in North Vietnam, she has traveled to many different countries. She can say from experience, “America is a land of opportunity, for women especially.”
In 1969 Reiter met Gary Herdt, a Great Bend resident involved in offshore drilling. They were married in Singapore and traveled throughout Asia, to the Philippines, Hong Kong and Bangkok. In 1972, after studying American history and the Constitution, she spent three days in the American territory of Guam so she could become a U.S. citizen.
“I came to this country in 1975,” she said. “I was married to an American citizen and had always heard how America was the land of opportunity.”
She went to work at the Great Bend Petroleum Club and took a secretarial class at Barton County Community College. That helped her land a job with the Kansas Department of Social & Rehabilitation Services, but she saw that in this land of opportunity she could do better working for herself. Her mother had owned a restaurant in Vietnam, and that was what she chose to do here.
“I had multiple jobs before deciding to take a chance on myself and opening my family’s first restaurant at the old A&W site at 10th and Washington,” she said, It was called the Oriental.
“The flood of 1981 washed away that dream, and we picked up again and ran our restaurant out of the Holiday Inn,” she said. She leased the restaurant from Leonard “L.F.” Harper, who also sent her to Holiday Inn’s restaurant training program. “That helped me a lot,” she said.
Working from 6 a.m. to midnight serving breakfast, lunch and dinner to hotel guests and locals, she perfected her talents preparing American cuisine.
Sometimes the entrees were unfamiliar to her. She recalls how she was baffled the first time someone ordered “mush” for breakfast.
“Mush! I’d never heard of that in my entire life,” she said. “An old waitress helped me make it.”
Meanwhile, she was introducing central Kansas to Vietnamese cooking and her own recipes.
It was around this time that Linh realized it was better to own the property instead of renting. She bought the restaurant on Forest Avenue, across the street from the library, and opened The Classic Inn, serving American and Asian cuisine.
“I knew I could cook better food,” she said. And for 37 years she has done just that.
Married to Bob Reiter for 24 years, Linh is proud of her five children, who have all become successful in their own right, and her eight grandchildren.
Her restaurant is located at 30 South Patton Road in Great Bend.
To all of the patrons who have supported her throughout the years, including agencies such as ILS and Sunflower Diversified Services, Reiter is grateful. “I want to thank them for all of the support,” she said.
See "Great Bend woman visits Vietnam 40 years after leaving" at http://www.gbtribune.com/section/69/article/107790/