Most people say some of the smallest cities usually have some of the more unique and intricate attractions and sites. Take Williamston for example – a city home to just under 4,000 thousand people outside the larger city of Lansing, mainly known for its various antique markets in the town.
“We’ve got a lot of little very unique restaurants here in Williamston,” Williamston resident John Waters said. “Thai Nation is as authentic as they come and it’s definitely my favorite place to grab a bite to eat in town.”
Located just off 725 West Grand River Ave. is Thai Nation, a locally owned Thai home cooking style restaurant that is one of the major hotspots of Williamston and the greater Lansing area. Jeffrey Story and his wife Jindamanee (Jin), a native of Khan Kaen, located in Northeast Thailand, opened up the restaurant in Williamston looking to bring authentic, home cooking style Thai food to the Williamston and Lansing area.
“I stumbled onto Thai Nation when I was driving through the small town,” Lansing Community College student Christian Hassenger said. “It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re a big Thai food guy like myself.”
In 2015, Story was busy traveling the world for work, going back and forth from Thailand to New York, where the two found out they were expecting a baby girl. While it was unexpected and not supposed to happen, the Story’s were thrilled to find out after losing their son to a malignant heart disease several years earlier.
How exactly did Jeff and Jin end up in the small town of Williamston? Jeff’s father lived in Williamston, and after he had passed away, Jeff bought his house there to raise his family. Story grew up in the restaurant business when he lived in Flint, so as one may assume, he wasn’t all on board about opening a restaurant again with his wife. After being occupied with caring for his daughter Libby, Jeff decided to cut back on his traveling and decided to focus more on his family, and that’s when he and Jin really deemed opening their own local restaurant a real possibility for them.
The Story’s had a friend in Williamston who serves as the anchor of the Thai community in the East Lansing area. The friend has been a Williamston resident for 35 years, and one night when Jeff and Jin were at their house for dinner, the friend’s husband mentioned to them that their was a vacant building that had just opened up. He suggested they look at it for a possible restaurant opening.
“He happened to mention to his wife that there was a vacant building that had just opened up,” Jeff said. “So we hopped in the car and right then and there we knew that building would be a great place for our restaurant.”
Thai Nation’s name was chosen to represent the home cooking style from all of the nation of Thailand, and not just solely Bangkok. Both of Jin’s parents were chefs and with Thai being the fastest moving ethnic food currently, Jeff and Jin felt the need to bring their traditional home style cooking to the community.
“We would constantly have people to our home that we could cook for,” Jeff said.” So we thought we may as well take this homemade cooking and start our own restaurant to cater to even more people.”
Last year, on Labor Day weekend, Jeff and Jin opened up Thai Nation to the Williamston area. The interior of the restaurant is modeled after authentic Thai restaurants in Thailand and many of the decorations in the restaurant can be found in their home. The logo of Thai Nation also has an interesting origin that was also developed by Jeff and Jin while together in Thailand.
“The artwork for our logo was drawn five to six years ago,” Jeff said. “The roof on the logo represents the roof of my friend’s temple in Thailand … and the flag itself is self-explanatory.”
Thai Nation is referred to as a bistro because of the open and free flowing environment that sparks lots of different conversations amongst all of the customers. Jeff had a vision for the restaurant to have a real bistro feel like you’d see in Thailand.
“You should hear the kitchen making noise and all of the pots and pans,” Story said. “The Nation in our name is meant to represent the real authentic food that represents all of Thailand, not just one area.”
While Jeff and Jin are pleased with their only Thai Nation location in Williamston, they can’t help but think about future expansions as well. They feel that since their restaurant is flourishing in the Williamston and greater Lansing area, they can see success with a secondary location nearby. “I’ve always got my dream to have a location in the Capitol Theater building in my hometown of Flint,” Jeff said. “We’re also in the beginning stage of looking to open a takeout location down on Grand River right in the center of campus, we feel that could be a big hotspot.”