June 17, 2019 | Story by: Jennifer Timar | Photos by: Benjamin Weatherston
This article originally appeared here.
About 14 years ago, three college buddies took a chance on a Thai restaurant venture together.
Since then, their No Thai! restaurant business has experienced steady growth to five locations in Ann Arbor and East Lansing.
The pals are gearing up to open their sixth location of No Thai! in the Brighton Mall shopping center at 8367 Grand River Ave.
“I would call it quick casual that is geared toward dine-in and carry-out,” co-owner Jeffery Cho, who co-owns the restaurants with Noerung “No” Hang and Brian Kim, said.
Cho said they are bringing a new partner, Steve Yang, on board to run the new restaurant.
The approximately 2,500-square-foot eatery will seat about 40 people.
Cho said they will eventually offer delivery from the future Brighton location.
They are hoping to open by fall.
“It’s Thai-inspired,” Cho said. “We don’t call it authentic Thai, because we created it to be more of a Thai fusion, with familiar flavors of Thai cuisine, but from the start we wanted to make it more accessible to American food culture.”
Kim said if he were to choose one thing to eat every day it would be their fried rice. The restaurant’s signature fried rice dish features white onions, green onions, peas, carrots, eggs and a mushroom soy sauce.
“The Pad Thai is definitely the most famous Thai dish out there and noodle dishes are also popular, and we also have a sweet-and-spicy chicken that is popular,” Kim said.
The space in the Brighton Mall was previously occupied by American Street Food Eatery, which closed.
Filling a niche
The partners met as students at Michigan State University.
They had no idea they would get into the restaurant business together.
“We were golfing together one day and after golf we ate at an Asian restaurant and weren’t impressed with the food,” Cho said. “At that time, Thai restaurants weren’t common in Michigan … but No’s family members own a Thai restaurant,” Thai Express in Brighton, “and we all got to a place were we were young and wanting to try something and thought there was a need for it.”
In 2005, they opened their first No Thai! location on S. University Avenue in Ann Arbor close to the campus of the University of Michigan.
“We went into this business knowing that if it was going to be successful for all of us, we’d need more than one location,” Cho said. “We’re blessed that it’s worked out, and we’d like to expand further in the future, if it’s in the cards, but there is no hurry.”
Kim said their success was a combination of luck and filling a niche.
“We were lucky in the fact we were able to pretty much get a demographic (on the UM campus), and Thai food really wasn’t on campus, and we made it really accessible,” he said.
He said they are working on the interior design of the new Brighton location with Ann Arbor architecture and design firm OX Studio, Inc.
“It would definitely have the look and feel of our current restaurants, with laminate, concrete, a lot of stainless steel, bamboo patterns, relatively modern,” he said.
Eric Unatin, vice president of Mid-America Real Estate — Michigan, Inc. who brokered the deal for No Thai! to lease space in the Brighton Mall, said there is very little vacancy in the shopping center.
He estimated about 97% of it is currently occupied.
“Brighton remains to be a robust retail market with various retailers vying to get in the Grand River corridor,” Unatin said.
Contact Livingston Daily reporter Jennifer Timar at 517-548-7148 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Facebook @Jennifer.Timar99 and Twitter @JenTimar99.