Champions of Alberta Avenue: Downtown Auto

Downtown Auto: A Source of Pride 


Written by Shirley Serviss
Photo by Edmonton Shutterbugs Photography

Jim (Cua) Nguyen, owner of Downtown Auto, was raised above his father’s garage in Vietnam, and spent much of his childhood and adolescence working on vehicles. Mechanics is in his blood. He had his journeyman ticket by the time he was 21. 

He also loved chemistry and was in his third year studying Pharmacy at university when the opportunity arose to come to Edmonton, sponsored by his eldest brother, who was already here. “I always wanted to try living in another country,” he says, “and Canada is a peaceful country.” So, in 1991, he came with other members of his family to embark on a different career path. 

 “I made the right choice,” he says. 

Jim worked in his brother’s garage for a few years before opening Downtown Auto in 1996 on the corner of Alberta Avenue at 11765 95th Street. “It’s very, very, very important to be here on 118 Avenue,” he says. “There’s density and lots of traffic.” 

What makes it different, he believes, and gives it an advantage, is its multi-cultural nature and strong, supportive community. 

Operating your own business takes “knowledge, passion and commitment,” Jim says. “You have to love what you do, make sure you put knowledge behind it, work with others and don’t give up.” 

He’s proud of his accomplishments. “We provide a service based on honesty, fairness and responsibility, and I’ve achieved what I have pretty much from scratch,” he says. He hopes to see his eldest son take over his business some day. 

Jim is president of the Alberta Avenue Business Association, and says giving back to the community feels really good. “I appreciate the opportunity and support the community gave me so, to pay back, I want to contribute my time and energy to businesses on the Avenue.”  

Jim’s contribution extends beyond Alberta Avenue. He’s very involved with the Vietnam community and plays keyboard in a band with his brother they call the Downtown Band, often playing for non-profits. “Not only do I enjoy myself, but we help organizations with fundraising,” he says. 

Vietnam will always be Jim’s homeland, and he thinks of himself as a dual citizen.  but he says that when he travels there, he misses home, which is Edmonton. 

“For the first 10 years, I liked it here, but didn’t feel I belonged,” he says. “After that, I felt like I was born here!” 

 Watch The Champions of Alberta Avenue Short Film by Moving Artistry Productions

This special community project became reality through the creative efforts of:

Justin Brunelle | Moving Artistry Productions

Weyme Teeter | Video Editor

David Baron | Cinematographer

Shirley Serviss | Writer

The Edmonton Shutterbugs Photography Group

Christy Morin | Project Producer

Allison Argy-Burgess | Project Coordinator