Who would have thought a young, inexperienced Thai woman could take her dream of working for herself and turn it into a chain of nationally known restaurants. Supenn Harrison did just that. For over twenty years she has been creating authentic Thai cuisine which has set the standard for local Asian restaurants. Supenn's success can be attributed to her hard work, her demand for superior quality and service, her knowledge and understanding of her target market, her keen business sense, and her caring personality.
Supenn came from Thailand to Minnesota to attend graduate school at the University of Minnesota. After graduation, she wasn't able to get a job, so she worked a manual labor janitorial job at Abbott Northwestern Hospital.
Supenn opened a small food booth at the Minnesota State Fair after co-workers encouraged her to sell her Famous Sue's Egg Rolls. The booth operated for 25 years.
Supenn bought the Gopher Grill on Lake Street serving hamburgers, fried eggs, meatloaf, and many other "greasy-spoon" specialties. Soon after the doors opened, Supenn realized there would not be great financial rewards in this endeavor. She threw away the fryers, installed a few woks, changed the restaurant's name to the Siam Cafe - the first Thai restaurant in the state, which evolved into what is now Sawatdee Thai Restaurants. There was nothing fancy about it. Just excellent food and service that delighted not only the palette but the other senses as well. Her unique combination of sweet, sour, bitter, and salty formed a loyal following of patrons.
Supenn opened the first Sawatdee Thai Restaurant. Located in what is now Market House in downtown St. Paul's Lowertown area, Sawatdee built on the Café's success in a time when neighboring restaurants faltered and failed. It won four star ratings from the Minneapolis Star and Tribune thus confirming what the restaurant's patrons already knew. They expected the best Thai food, service, and atmosphere and the Sawatdee delivered it consistently.
Sawatdee Minneapolis (602 Washington Ave - Headquarters) opened its doors with continued expectations of quality. An old warehouse once again became home to Thai architecture, traditional decorations, and the warm red, blue, and gold tones that by now had become a trademark. Supenn created a slightly different menu that offered a greater variety of traditional Thai cuisine than that of her popular St. Paul restaurant. The new location was an immediate success and has continued to grow each and every year. With its loyal customer base it quickly became the flagship of the growing family of restaurants. Its growing catering business has also contributed to growing profits, name recognition, and the Rollin Stones' waistlines (1994 & 1999).
A new Sawatdee was opened in Bloomington. Once again, warm Thai decorations and superior service welcomed new clientele and the business quickly grew. Supenn created a slightly different menu for the new restaurant after recognizing the area had different tastes. It consisted of a list of offerings that even Bloomington palates could not resist.
Sawatdee Thai Two On 5K Run/Walk sponsored in collaboration with the Epilepsy Foundation. A wonderful 5K through downtown Minneapolis. The run operated for 10 years.
In October, another Sawatdee was opened in St. Cloud. Operated by Supenn's sister, Noi, the St Cloud location has become a popular attraction to St. Cloud residents.
Sawatdee and Zushiya of Maple Grove opened on Main Street. This location offers sushi in addition to our well known Thai food.
Sawatdee Saint Paul was reborn on Robert and 9th Street.
Supenn's daughters, Cyndy and Jenny, take over daily operations of the restaurants.