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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to

< Back to Oral History project: Summer Avenue, Memphis


Tom Tongumpun

The Cottage Restaurant

Born in 1947, Tom Tongumpun was raised in Bangkok, Thailand. He attended Chiang Mai University and obtained a bachelor’s degree in communications. In 1971, Tongumpun immigrated to the US at the invitation of his aunt’s American husband. He first moved to Goldsboro, North Carolina and got a job sacking potatoes. Tongumpun learned English at a local community college he attended there. He later moved to Johnson City, Tennessee.

In the 1980s, a friend convinced him to move to Memphis for a job opportunity. In Memphis, Tongumpun continued his education and earned a master’s degree in special education. He was an educator in the Memphis public school system for twenty six years before he retired and became a full-time entrepreneur. Tom noticed The Cottage Restaurant on Summer Avenue and liked both the name and appearance of the restaurant. In 2017, when the business went up for sale, he purchased it immediately. The restaurant now offers both southern and Thai food.

Date of interview:

Simone Delerme

Houston Cofield

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The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


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