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Small Business:
Be More Thai
Owner:
Chonlawit Boontawee
Interview Date:
03.17.2021
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Published on
10.19.2021

“I was born in Bangkok, Thailand.  When I was very young my grandmother took care of me while my parents were at work. She was the best chef I ever knew. I watched her cook Thai dishes and Thai desserts and always wondered if there was anything she couldn’t make. 

Almost every day, my grandmother would wake up at four in the morning and make Thai desserts on the charcoal stove to sell. Then she would cook for all of my family. She taught me how to cook Thai food. My love of cooking came from her. 

I came to the United States in 1996 for grad school. After I graduated in 1998, I had worked in an IT field for a few companies. My last IT job was at a charter school in DC before it was closed down in the middle of 2018. I decided it was time for me to take a break from an IT job. 

I started to drive Uber & Lyft during my transition time which was a great way to see the cities, make money, and be in control of my schedule. I decided I didn't want to have a boss anymore. I wanted to own something. I figured that it might not be easy, but I wanted to have more control this time around. This way, if I work lots of hours and work hard it’s for my business; I benefit.

Driving for Uber & Lyft is how I found Federal Hill. One night, I drove a passenger from DC to Baltimore and after I finished that ride, I drove through Federal Hill to take another passenger to the airport. I noticed the area looked very pretty. It was around Christmas time and there were beautiful lights hanging over the streets. The area gave me the same feeling of Old Town Alexandria in Virginia, a few miles north of where I lived because of the beautiful row houses, history, and local small businesses."

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"I eventually found a location for my restaurant in Federal Hill a little over two years ago. I had already visualized what I wanted the interior space to look like after the first walk-through of the previous business that was there. Transforming the old space to what I had in mind wasn’t that easy at all. We got held up for many months because our first contractor didn’t get the permits they needed. We wasted a lot of time and money by not paying close enough attention to the contractor’s work. The project had also been delayed by the pandemic in 2020. After almost two years, Be More Thai finally opened on January, 29th 2021. I was very happy with the finished design even though it took a lot more work and money than I expected."

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"The happiest moment for me was when I saw a first review of the restaurant from a customer on Yelp. It was very nice of a customer to take the time to write and post a few pictures about the experience he had with our food. It was very genuine and I appreciated it so much."

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"I love meeting and seeing different customers who come in to try our dishes and to look at what I did with the space. One lady walked by and told me she liked our sign and that meant so much to me. During our construction, it was like the community was rooting for us to open. Now the customers are coming and some are coming back many times already.”

*Story made in partnership with Federal Hill Main Street & South Baltimore Gateway Partnership

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About
Be More Thai
Traditional Thai dishes in an artsy atmosphere! As an owner of Be More Thai, I am trying to bring my passion for food, travel, and local arts to my restaurant. Come visit us and enjoy food, arts, and a friendly atmosphere.
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