Another local food truck operator is coming to Wellesley stores to set up shop.
Thai Won On, which launched as a mobile operation in 2019, is preparing a location in the West End Mall, just south of Short Pump. This is the second time this year that the strip center has attracted a food truck looking to go brick and mortar.
The Thai restaurant will open at 3422 Lauderdale Drive, next to the upcoming Redemption BBQ & Market, another food truck that has recently signed up for a permanent home.
Married couple Jon Niemiec and Joy Supanya each left their respective careers in insurance and massage therapy to launch the Thai Won On truck about three years ago, the same year that Redemption BBQ was first launched.
Niemiec, an expatriate from England, said the idea sprouted in their heads when Supanya went to visit a friend in Philadelphia who had also started a food truck.
â(Joy) came back crazy about her friend’s food truck. She was looking to do something more creative with her cooking skills, âsaid Niemiec. âI said, ‘Well let’s get a food truck. I was getting to the highest level of boredom with my job. So we created the company, bought the truck, quit our old jobs and launched the food truck. “
Supanya, originally from Thailand, runs the kitchen at Thai Won On.
âShe started cooking with her grandmother when she was 5 years old. These are all her family’s recipes that she uses, âsaid Niemiec. “When we set up the truck, she insisted that she would only do that if she could cook the food like they do in Thailand.”
As the business grew and booked festivals in early 2020, the pandemic struck. However, Niemiec said, as festival cancellations came in, so did demands from local homeowners associations.
âThe HOAs started calling us and saying, ‘Look, our neighbors can’t eat out, they’re all hungry and hungry.’ They are all Americans and, no offense to you, only have the ability to cook for themselves two nights in a row. They are losing weight, they need food, can you come to the neighborhood? ‘ Niemiec joked.
âThat night just exploded. We got to the point where after COVID became a real epidemic, we were turning down five or six reservations a day. We had more work than we could handle.
Niemiec said the frequency of repeat bookings signaled him and Supanya that their food was good, but limited space and service times with the food truck limited growth.
âYou start early and finish late, but you have a very short service window. Typically, the windows were 4 pm to 8 pm in summer and 4 pm to 7 pm in winter, âhe said. âYou are limited by the amount of food you can serve and grow your business. We started to think with a brick and mortar that we weren’t going to be subjected to this.
They contacted Joyner Commercial’s Todd Buttner to search for a storefront and rented the 1,100 square foot space that until recently housed Hungry Dragon Asian Kitchen. Jim Ashby and Reilly Marchant of Thalhimer represented the landlord during lease negotiations.
Niemiec and Supanya plan to open the restaurant around Christmas.
Niemiec said they were doing cosmetic renovations to the space, including painting and new flooring.
Thai Won On will focus on delivery and take out, but will also have around eight or nine tables to sit on.
The extra space will also allow the couple to roughly triple the size of the menu, Niemic said.
âWe used to make the traditional dishes that everyone knows like pad thai, drunk noodles, fried rice. The expanded menu will now include a number of Thai curries and salads, âhe said. âWe will also keep all the traditional dishes and develop some of them. “
Meanwhile, the Thai Won On food truck is retired. Niemiec said an anonymous buyer was preparing to take it back.
When the pandemic first struck, Niemiec said they believed quitting their job for the food truck would either be the best decision or the worst decision they’d ever made. Almost two years later, he said he felt lucky that he was able to spend the last few years in the truck.
âLike any merry-go-round, there are ups and downs,â Niemiec said. “But it’s ours and we have more ups than downs.”