Cambodian native Sitha Ngourn immigrated to the U.S. in 2001, motivated by the ideal of the American Dream. And 20 years later, perseverance and a lot of hard work have helped make Ngourn’s idea of that dream a reality. Since 2011, she’s been the manager at Main Street Bagels in Capitola. Her uncle, Sam, is the baker behind the beloved bagels that Sitha described as authentic “New York-style.” The popular everything bagel—a blend of sesame and poppy seeds, onion and garlic—is one of the many options. There are several cream cheese flavors and sweet and savory toppings. But the bagels are so good that many customers just go with plain. The longtime grab-and-go breakfast favorite is boiled to achieve an outer crunch, encapsulating that soft and doughy, warm goodness.
Main Street Bagels is open 6am-4pm every day. Sitha recently reminisced with GT about her journey to America and her first day in the country.
How did you end up in the U.S.?
SITHA NGOURN: It was always my dream when I was younger. When I was in school at age 12 or 13, I learned about airplanes, and I wondered where they fly. Someone told me they can go to the U.S.A. and I wanted to know about it. My friend said it was far away, but I wanted to learn. Then I learned a little English in school and thought it was amazing, and I wanted to come to the U.S. Then a couple family members came here, and I kept dreaming about it. My friends said the people were nice here. At age 28, I finally made it, and it was a dream come true. It is everything I thought it would be.
What do you remember about your first day in this country?
My plane landed in Chicago, but I really didn’t know how to speak English. A nice man in the airport held my hand and helped me answer some questions and made sure to sit with me on my next flight to San Francisco. When we landed, he held my hand again and helped me find my sister-in-law, who was picking me up. He was so nice, and I appreciated his help so much; he’s a major reason I made it here today.
1475 41st Ave., Capitola. 831-477-9919.