Chieu Le, founder of Lee’s Sandwiches, came to America and settled in San Jose in 1980. He began taking education classes to study English and would frequently buy food from catering trucks before and after class. Seeing the potential, Chieu decided to work on a catering truck to get more involved with the business. The following year, he bought his own vehicle and began his first route around San Jose. While new to food service, Chieu quickly realized catering trucks needed a place to park and clean while being able to restock food and ice. This sparked the creation of Lee Bros. Foodservices, Inc, which he and his brother Henry Le would later develop in 1982. Lee Bros. Foodservices, Inc would go on to be the largest industrial catering company in Northern California; serving more than 500 independently operating trucks at one time.
In 1983, Chieu’s parents, Ba Le and Hanh Nguyen, started serving banh mi to students and residents in the San Jose area. This became an instant hit amongst the community. Inspired by the overwhelming support, they decided to open the first permanent location on Santa Clara Street in San Jose and named it Lee’s Sandwiches.