Seven years ago, Sawatdee owners Will and Nee Gilbert opened their downtown location on Bridge Street. After failing to find a piece of commercial property in Vermont, the Gilberts came to Plattsburgh.
“It was Fourth of July, and there was a Fourth of July parade, and we just kind of stumbled across the restaurant,” Will said.
Will said that after sitting down with the previous owner, the couple found he was trying to sell it.
“I saw my wife, and this light bulb went off,” Will said.
Looking back at how the restaurant came to be, Will doesn’t know how they actually pulled it off.
For Will who has a surgical degree and Nee who has a fashion merchandising degree, owning a restaurant didn’t seem like a practical choice for them. But it ended up being the perfect fit. Flash-forward to just last year, and the Gilberts have opened a new Sawatdee location in uptown Plattsburgh.
Will said they designed this one to be primarily a takeout restaurant.
“We have a lot of clientele up here who want to come downtown for lunch,” Will said. “But with only an hour to do this, it became very difficult for them so we decided why not move up here and make some new clients,” Will said.
The two locations differ in that the menus have some differences. The uptown menu has more of a Vietnamese feel to it. They serve customer favorites such as a variety of curry and rice dishes.
For opening up in September 2014, Sawatdee is doing well in Will’s eyes.
“The first month was a little quiet — no one knew what we really were,” Will said.
“The same thing happened when we opened our downtown location. It takes time, but people come around, and right now we are doing really well.”
Will said Sawatdee serves healthy food that tastes good and is something that is hard to find these days. A Sawatdee lunch could be a healthy alternative to fast food.
Thana, one of the chefs at the restaurant, has worked at both locations. Smiling, she said she enjoys working at Sawatdee.
“I do the appetizers here,” she said. “My favorite things to make are the noodles.” After her time in Plattsburgh, Thana hopes to go back to her home in Thailand and open her own restaurant.
Recently, Will said he had an epiphany while watching the film Moneyball.
“Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A’s, has to take the smallest market team with the smallest amount of people and compete against the bigger market, which takes an incredible amount of imagination,” he said. “I was watching the movie, and thought, ‘That’s us! That’s us on Route 3!’ That’s what we have to do.”
He said the similarities are amazing, and that Sawatdee needs to go against big chain stores with fewer resources.
Even with other local chain restaurants closing their second location after expanding, Will isn’t concerned.
“So far, for us, we’ve been doing well. So we will see.”
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Email Samantha Stahl at firstname.lastname@example.org.