Thursday, August 20, 2009

Happy National Lemonade Day!

What could possibly taste better on a hot muggy day than a tall glass of cold lemonade? No wonder August 20th has been designated National Lemonade Day. I am excited to promote this day of recognition because little Anna's first money making enterprise was — you guessed it! — a lemonade stand!

OK, technically it was a limeade stand, there being no lemonade stands in Thailand. But, like in America, Thailand has churches, and churches have youth retreats, and Thai moms tell their kids that they have to earn their own money if they want to go to camp. Ten-year-old Anna wanted very much to go on retreat and was determined to earn the money to do so.

To this day my cousin Vanna is one of my favorite people in the whole world because it was she who suggested a "lemonade" stand to me. More important, she gave me the recipe for great limeade (limes, water, sugar, ice and a special secret ingredient). Cousin Vanna told me to wear my cutest outfits and to smile at all the passers-by, especially the ones who looked hot and thirsty. That proved to be a very good marketing strategy.

Little Anna was not the only Thai kid with a limeade stand but mine was closest to the Cathedral and there was a lot of foot traffic on our street. In no time at all little Anna was selling fifty to one hundred glasses of limeade a day. My sister the nun was very impressed and told me I was making as much money as a school teacher. That made me very proud and even more determined to sell even more limeade.

Everything else was just like it was here in America. Mom let me put an old table and a chair in our front yard and I made a big big sign that said LIMEADE ONLY 20 BAHT. Our neighborhood was sort of like a big marketplace already so it was always full of shoppers and people passing through.

Each morning I would go to our fruit farm and I would pick one hundred limes for that day's limeade. My mom taught me how to pick the very best limes because the best limeade is made from the best limes. I was learning to make money but like all little kids my limeade stand was subsidized by my mom who let me use one of her pitchers, some glasses and sugar from the family sugar canister. It also didn't hurt that she did not charge me for the limes!

One difference from an American lemonade stand was that back then Thai people did not make ice cubes in their refrigerators like Americans do. We had an icebox and bought blocks of ice from the ice vendors who came by every morning. A big block of ice was cheaper and lasted longer. One big block would be enough ice for an entire day's limeade sales. All day long little Anna would hit the block of ice with her ice hammer — tap, tap, tap — breaking off ice to put in the glasses of limeade.

Little Anna ran her limeade stand for every day for two weeks and sold over 1,000 glasses of limeade, making enough money to go on retreat with my classmates. As with most things you eat or drink, the secret ingredient cousin Vanna shared with me was . . . salt.

But the most important thing was that my mom and my cousin Vanna loved me and taught me that you could make money selling people what they want. On a hot humid day in Thailand people are thirsty and little Anna sold them what they wanted: a big glass of limeade served by a little kid with a big smile.

Monday, August 17, 2009

We can do it!

Some time ago I wrote about True Thai and frugal dining. As a public health nurse working with lower income clients, I appreciate that times are very hard for some, and not easy for hardly anyone. Increasingly, eating out is a luxury and not just a treat.

But True Thai keeps doing good business. Why? I think you already know why. True Thai is very affordable. Yet our costs are the same as those of other Thai restaurants, and in some cases even higher because of our insistence on authentic ingredients. So how does True Thai stay in business?

We stay in business because of you, our customers. Because of your loyalty we don't have to spend money on marketing or advertising. Instead of running ads in City Pages, I post to this blog. Instead of 4-color ads in glossy magazines, I tweet. Instead of trying to sell you an extra beer or upgrade you from a glass to a bottle of wine, we encourage you to economize so you can visit us more often.

Whether you knew it or not, you're part of the True Thai family, and being part of a family means you have privileges. You can order your food the way you like it, not the way some restaurant critic insisted was correct. We don't have any ketchup on hand, but if you bring in your own, we won't stop you from using it.

True Thai is your restaurant and my refuge. When I go to True Thai each night, it's like going home to Thailand. As a Thai American, I thank you for sharing my dream of introducing Minnesota to quality Thai food. And, as a public health nurse, I thank you for making the decision to eat healthy food prepared in the Thai style.

Together we can beat this recession!