By Samantha VanHoef
The Meridian Times
After closing the doors of Thai Kitchen in August 2012, the Xiong family attempted to retire. However, once the owners of the authentic Thai restaurant on Grand River Avenue finally got to retirement, wife Chou Xiong was not ready to leave the business.
“Once we sold the place I thought I was going to retire,” Xiong said. “But I haven’t reached the age to retire yet. I thought ‘I’m going to retire; my husband’s going to retire.’ But then I wanted my old place again. We found a place and decided to open the restaurant again.”
According to husband Ying Xiong, he quickly found out that retirement was not for his wife.
“We were going to retire when we sold the other place, but she found out that it’s kind of boring,” Ying Xiong said. “She told me early, ‘You’ve got to get me another place!’ So I said, ‘OK we’ll find you one.’”
Since reopening under the name New Thai Kitchen on Jan. 14, 2015, the couple has been back to work in a new space on 4690 Okemos Road.
“The best part is that this is the center of the town,” Ying Xiong said. “We’d been watching for a few years and this is the center of everything. You have Okemos Road, Meridian Mall and the residential area.”
Ying Xiong said he is now in a “partial retirement” to help his wife re-establish in the new location, but also aiding in the re-establishment of the restaurant are Thai Kitchen’s original customers.
“When I closed that place down, a lot of my customers were disappointed,” Xiong said. “But now I’m back and everyone is coming. My customers are glad to see the restaurant open again.”
Long-time customer Cindy Howell of St. Johns, Michigan, was one of the customers who was sad to see Thai Kitchen close.
“We were sad when they closed,” Howell said. “That’s when I started to check out other Thai places…I even tried to make it myself. I kept in touch with Chou via texting and my kids would always ask if she could come over and cook for us.”
Howell now drives 30 minutes to eat at New Thai Kitchen, but said even after trying different Thai restaurants during the hiatus, “There is no better Thai food.” A customer of 14 years, Howell has been coming to the Xiongs’ restaurant for her children’s entire lives.
“My children are 12 and 9 years old now,” Howell said. “My son used to eat fistfuls of the rice and shake it around in the air…My kids grew up here.”
Ying Xiong agrees that the customers like Howell have made a comeback to support New Thai Kitchen.
“I think we have more business now,” Ying Xiong said. “Pretty much all the old customers all came back.. a small portion didn’t hear yet, but we have a good portion of new customers now, too. It’s exciting and a lot of people are excited too. A lot of people have brought her flowers…They’re glad that she’s back in business again.”
Although Xiong “misses her Michigan State students,” the couple is confident business with new customers will continue.
“I think they like the flavor of the recipe,” Ying Xiong said. “They like the spice. They like our personality … and we take care of them. We treat the customer well. I’m surprised with how many came back. I was talking to my wife and I said ‘I didn’t really think we had that many customers at the old place.’ Everyone is coming now.”
An updated menu, a new location and the old owners is the recipe for new success for customers like Howell.
“We were here opening day we were so excited,” Howell said. “Unfortunately I couldn’t take my kids out of school, but I did buy them takeout.”