One of a Thai reflects on a decade of business in YK

June marks one decade in business for Yellowknife’s food truck mainstay, One of a Thai.

The family who started the business couldn’t imagine in 2011 that it would grow to this extent or last this long.

“We’re the only Thai-Lao family up here, along with my cousin and my mom,” said One of a Thai co-owner Sousanh Chanthalangsy. “To introduce our culture to this community has been amazing.”

From trailer to truck

When Sousanh first opened the business on May 19, 2011 with her mother Thip Chanthalangsy and cousin Linda Khoungkhong, they worked out of a trailer that was much smaller than their current vehicle.

“When we look back at that, we can’t believe we used to sell out of that little trailer, and we still did decent sales out of that,” Sousanh said. “We had one small grill and one burner that we cooked pad Thai on and a small pot — and we had a (portable) home fryer and one mini cooler for drinks.”

After a few years, they realized they had to upgrade. They sold their trailer and had a new truck custom-built in Surrey, B.C.

The larger vehicle allows them to store and cook more food.

“We have more equipment in it and a big fryer and a way bigger grill and four burners instead of one,” she said. “It worked out really well.”

Success tied to community, family

But that expansion wouldn’t have made sense without community support, of which there has been plenty.

The customer base of hungry lunch-goers seeking tasty Thai cuisine has expanded over the decade, Sousanh said.

“A lot of younger people are coming now than before. It used to be office workers. I’m seeing more of the younger crowd coming and more new faces. And the best is seeing our regular customers from back in 2011.”

She’s most impressed with her mother’s role in the business.

“She’s the main cook, and my mom should have retired but she’s still going strong. I remember telling her in high school, ‘One day we’ll do some kind of business.’ And the recipes I do come from her. She helps me with everything. It’s the best feeling to see her smile and see the customers smile.”

No pause in the pandemic

This year the family opened a few weeks later than their usual mid-May start due to some delays in paperwork approvals with city authorities.

But their second year working amid the COVID-19 pandemic has kept them as busy as their pad Thai is spicy.

Sousanh attributes the brisk customer activity to COVID-19 restrictions keeping more people in the territory who would normally travel during the first month of summer.

“Last year we did really well. This year the weather is better too. It’s a lot sunnier. I remember last year a few times we didn’t even go out because it was raining,” she said.

June 18, 2021 was, in fact, record breaking for the kitchen trio.

In their Tuesday to Friday schedule they sell an average of 75 to 225 orders, but June 18 went far beyond that.

“It was a nice, sunny day and it was just really busy. We were really prepared for it. On a normal day we would go through 15-20 bags of noodles. On (June 18) we decided to do 25 bags. We sold them all. For spring rolls, I would normally wrap 150-250 per day. I doubled that and sold them out. And then, same thing with chicken skewers. Usually, I can hold 150 in a bucket. I had about a bucket and a half and they were all gone. We sold out early.”

Weekend events have kept them busy as well. On June 13, they set up for a Sir John Franklin graduation event, a small wedding party came the following Sunday and they will cook for a GNWT gathering at Fred Henne Territorial Park on June 26.

When they have a minute to stop and think about how far they’ve come since 2011, the idea of releasing One of a Thai-themed apparel for their 10-year anniversary crosses their minds, along the lines of a possible dinner bash but they’re still discussing options.

“I’m so grateful to the community for supporting us for 10 years,” Sousanh said.

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