At Siam Orchid, old practice and new ideas come together in the family business
Scott Saktanaset was just 12 when his parents opened Siam Orchid on the corner of North Main and Centre streets in 1995.
He did his homework at the same table in that restaurant every night, through high school in Concord and college at Northeastern University in Boston. He helped his mother do the accounting. He introduced his friends to Thai food while they hung out in his parents’ business.
“That was my second home,” Saktanaset said.
Now 32, Saktanaset helped his parents, Tom and Pat Saktanaset, transition to Siam Orchid’s new location at 12 N. Main St. earlier this month after nearly 20 years in their original storefront. Even though he works full time as a software engineer in Nashua, he’s also preparing to take over the restaurant that raised him when his parents eventually decide to retire.
“The thing about the restaurant, I didn’t think it would be valuable to my business career,” he said. But “I had real-world experience from that. It really helped in developing me.”
Saktanaset was 4 years old when his parents and older brother moved to Boston from Thailand. His father’s first job in America was as a parking garage attendant; his mother’s, a waitress.
After 10 years in odd jobs, the Saktanasets started their restaurant on Main Street. At the time, the family lived in Lexington, Mass., where another family member also ran a Thai restaurant. They commuted between Massachusetts and New Hampshire for a year before moving to Concord.
“When we first came here, I don’t think (Concord) knew what Thai food was,” Saktanaset said.
But Thai food put the Saktanasets’ two children through college. Their older son now runs Muse Thai Bistro in Manchester, and the younger Saktanaset works as a software engineer in Nashua during the day before coming back to help at the restaurant at night.
Wearing a crisp suit, Saktanaset sat in the new restaurant Saturday while a family ate a late lunch nearby. He doesn’t know how to cook most of the dishes on the menu – his parents run the kitchen – but he’s put his bachelor’s degree in computers and his master’s degree in business to work at Siam Orchid. He installed a computer system in the new space, and he talked about his marketing plans for the future. He redesigned the Siam Orchid logo, but he saved the familiar awning from the old front door and hung it at the new restaurant’s back entrance.
It’s a balance of old and new, he said.
“It took me 15 years to get my parents to use a computer for the accounting,” he said.
But the Saktanasets run the restaurant as a family, with a combination of the couple’s tried-and-true practices and their son’s vision for the future.
“They might not have an official college education, but the way they run the business, it works,” Saktanaset said.
The family bought the building for their new location in 2009, and this move has been four years in the making. Saktanaset pointed to the wood floor – another family affair.
“We sat down and did the floors ourselves, the three of us,” he said.
Saktanaset has an entrepreneurial mind, perhaps inherited from his parents. And he has a view of the future, as he talked about his hope for the long-awaited Main Street project and its wider sidewalks for outdoor seating. And as his parents get into their 60s and retire, Saktanaset said he will continue to grow the restaurant that watched him do the same.
“It’s our own,” he said.
Arts market to open soon
The Concord Arts Market will open for the season in Bicentennial Square on Saturday.
Founder and producer Katy Solsky said the market will again be a weekly venue for creative products made by area artists.
“I usually describe what we do as a farmers market but no food, all arts and hand crafts,” Solsky said.
The opening day will include live musical performances by West African-style drumming troupe Araba-Lon and singer-songwriter Rachel Vogelzang. Solsky said she hopes to incorporate more live music into the market this year.
“Live music could mean bands, it could mean a guy with a guitar doing some acoustic stuff,” Solsky said. “It will be eclectic.”
This year, the market will also host more of what Solsky calls “factory alternatives,” or locally made products like toys or clothing.
The market will be open most Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the square through Sept. 27. For more information, visit concordartsmarket.com.
Drink for a cause
The Granite State Music Festival and Time Flys Clothing will team up Saturday night for a fundraiser pub crawl in downtown Concord.
Beginning at 6:30 p.m., the group will crawl from Tandy’s Top Shelf to Cheers to True Brew Barista. A ticket will gain entrance to the three bars as well as drink specials at each, and the proceeds will go to the Granite State Music Festival. Local bands will be playing at each bar.
Past events have raised between $2,000 and $3,000 for the charity of choice, said Nicole Vera, owner of New To You clothing and representative for Time Flys Clothing.
Tickets – in T-shirt form – can be purchased for $15 ahead of time at timeflysclothing.com, or the night of the pub crawl for $10 per bar. The Granite State Music Festival will be held the weekend of June 21-22 at the Kiwanis Riverfront Park.
“If you like to have a good time and hang out and listen to good music and drink a few good beers, this is a good way to do it,” Vera said.
Thumbs up for businesses
The Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce presented its annual Pinnacle Awards to several local businesses this week. Teresa Rosenberger of Devine Strategies won Business Leader of the Year, and Nonprofit Business of the Year was awarded to the Concord Hospital Center for Health Promotion.
Business of the Year went to Bank of New Hampshire; Small Business of the Year to Capitol Craftsman & Romance Jewelers.
Thirty-two local businesses also participated in the May It Forward event sponsored by the Merchants’ Roundtable in Concord during the weekend of May 10. Gretchen Peters, owner of Puppy Love Hotdogs, said the promotion raised more than $2,400 for four Concord nonprofits: Girls Inc., SPCA, The Friendly Kitchen and Families In Transition. A student from Concord High School won a raffle for a gift basket, Peters said.
Many downtown businesses will again offer sales and special events during Midsummer Night Magic, set for June 20.
“It’s really important to educate and instill in the next generation to shop local, because it’s going to be key for downtown Concord,” Peters said.
(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)