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Former Friday Night Market vendor opens business
LINDSAY — Thailand transplant Sammy Lee, a former Friday night market vendor, has opened the doors at Noodle People, the city’s first Thai restaurant, serving a variety of Thai street food including Drunken Noodle, a noodle dish and a soup called Khao Soy.
“We making fast, affordable, healthy and good food,” said Lee. “Noodle People represents Mienh people. We have 12 tribes originally from China.”
He credits the Friday Night Market, in which he had a food truck, with helping him launch his business and thanks Virginia Loya, the executive director of the Lindsay Chamber of Commerce, for her help.
“Virginia helped me and gave me ideas,” said Lee.
According to Lee, Loya helped to bring in people to taste the food.
He would also like to thank the City Council for coming out to help open the restaurant.
The Friday Night Market was part of his business plan. According to Lee, his food truck was a one year experiment.
“I really love the concept. It’s an opportunity concept for business people. I wish every city in America would do this,” said Lee. “Where can you find a better environment to meet friend, eat and go dancing?”
After the truck experiment his next step was to open a restaurant.
Resident Perla Soria tried the veggie delight and the Pad Mai.
“I thought the food was authentic and I’d go back again,” said Soria. Council member Pam
Kimball sampled a noodle dish with chicken and peanuts on Monday at the ribbon cutting.
Lee, a former real estate investor, was born on the border of China and Laos, but grew up in Thailand.
“I’m a street kid, I grew up in a really bad environment. I chose to change my life,” he said.
In 1980, Lee immigrated to Mobile, Ala., where he worked for a family as a baby sitter and maid. Lee said he chose Alabama in order to have a fresh start. It was during his time in Alabama that Lee joined the Southern Baptist Church and began to learn English.
“I used to drink and smoke, but slowly my life changed,” said Lee. It was during one of his trips to Asia that Lee said he thought of owning a restaurant. In 2011, he and his wife Koy went to southeast Asia and spent two months learning how to cook street food.
His next step involved testing his product at the Fresno Fair. Then in 2012, he decided to try a food truck at the Friday Night Market. At first Lee said he had to serve Chinese food, but he decided to serve small samples of Thai food as well.
“The market is the best location. I target the flea market because people go,” said Lee.
Eventually he would like to expand his menu choices to include a mix of Thai and Hispanic food. According to Lee, the taste of Latino and Thai food is similar. In the future he would like to expand his business.
“Business is not only about making money, its a gift of serving people,” said Lee.
Noodle People’s operating hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The restaurant is located at 246 Elmwood Ave.
Contact Emily Shapiro at 784-5000, ext. 1050, or on Twitter @EmilyShapirogar.