There is something special about a family business, especially when the owners are passionate about their community, as well as their food. That’s how the owners of Alexander City’s Daylight Donuts and Sun Asian Restaurant feel.
Sareth “Sonny” Chea and his wife Angelina Sun immigrated to the United States from Cambodia in 2003. They lived in Boston, Massachusetts, and began American life opening nail salons in the Boston area. They were doing well but felt that something was missing. They wanted to be part of a community where they could raise their family.
Sun visited a friend in Alexander City who owned a donut shop. Eventually, the couple moved to the area and took over the Daylight Donuts shop on Airport Road. That’s when they knew they had found the home they had been looking for.
“I speak from my heart when I say I love this town,” Chea said. “My family felt so welcomed. We fell in love with so many people.”
Business was good, and they grew. Daylight Donuts moved to a shop on Cherokee Road, and the couple expanded to include Sun Asian Restaurant. They served donuts in the morning and Asian food for lunch and dinner.
After one and a half years at that location, Chea and Sun were given one months’ notice that their lease would expire.
“We thought we were going to have to move back to Boston,” explained Chea.
That’s when local businessmen Fred Dobbs and Steve Presley came to the rescue.
“We thought they were a nice couple and good for the community. They are probably the two hardest workers I’ve ever met in the restaurant business,” said Dobbs.
The businessmen found a location for the shop at 174 Broad St. Then last December, Daylight Donuts and Sun Asian Restaurant moved into a beautiful new building on Aliant Parkway with construction help from Dobbs and Presley. Daylight Donuts continues to serve customers from 5 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Broad Street location and is open seven days a week.
Angela and Quinn Smith befriended the couple when they moved to town in 2018. They now help their good friends out in both restaurants. Angela works in the donut shop most days. Chea refers to Quinn as his godbrother, and it’s apparent the two couples have become like family.
In addition to the Smiths, the couple’s two children Rachana, age 15, and Raymond, age 11, help out on weekends at the restaurant, cleaning or running the cash register for their parents. Chea and Sun also moved their mothers from Cambodia, and they stay busy in the kitchen helping the couple create authentic Asian cuisine.
Chea and Sun have faced some challenges along their road of success. Angelina was diagnosed with melanoma in 2019 and must return to Boston every three months for cancer treatment. Now, she is cancer free, but it has been a hardship for the family.
“It’s been very difficult to find help,” explained Chea. “We hope we can bring more family from Cambodia to help with the restaurants.”
Sun Asian Restaurant is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. They offer a variety of menu items. Special fried rice and homemade egg rolls have become especially popular. In addition, they have a full-service bar available. Even though they already are working seven days a week in Alexander City, they have more plans for expansion; they hope to open a restaurant in Sylacauga in the future.