history of Supenn Harrison's success began in 1979 when she bought the Gopher
Grill on Lake Street. The Gopher served 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, and
began serving her native Thai cuisine. The Siam Café was born. 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.
Even though the Siam Café had proven to be a success, Supenn wanted more.
She sold the café and in 1983 opened the first Sawatdee Restaurant. Located
in the newly renovated Cardozo warehouse (now called Market House) in downtown
St. Paul's Lowertown area, the 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. This location was eventually sold to Supenn's
April 15, 1986, the 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 Rolling
Supenn focused her efforts and resources towards bringing a new Sawatdee to Bloomington
in 1990. 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. This location
continues to grow and has people waiting in line to feast on Supenn's unique and
delicious lunch buffet. Supenn says not to worry because there is always enough
food for everyone.
March of 1994, another Sawatdee was opened in the warehouse district of Minneapolis.
Hoping to capture young urban clientele it was named the Sawatdee Bar and Café
and designed with this target market in mind. It offers a relaxed, inviting atmosphere
that is perfect for meeting with friends or making new ones. The Bar and Café
was met with some stiff competition but once again prevailed. Supenn has increased
its clientele by incorporating ingenious methods to reach new audiences.
few months after the opening of the Bar and Café, another Sawatdee was
opened in St. Cloud. With its unique menu it has become a popular attraction to
St. Cloud residents. Even though it is many miles from the other Sawatdee Restaurants,
it still has the warm, welcoming feeling that Supenn's restaurants are known for.
profitability and popularity of the Siam Café and the Sawatdee Restaurants
have largely been due to Supenn Harrison's 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. Her focus on superior quality
and service can be seen by her loyal customer base and by the numerous awards
and rave reviews her restaurants have received; Best Thai Restaurant (the last
ten years)/Minneapolis-St. Paul Magazine; Best Hot and Spicy Food/ Minneapolis-St.
Paul Magazine Reader's Choice Award; Best Thai/Minnesota Monthly;Rave
Reviews/City Pages. Supenn also won the 1999 Minnesota Small Business Award.
She has demonstrated her knowledge of her target market by the unique atmosphere
and menu of each restaurant. Each restaurant has a loyal following of the intended
customer base. Supenn's keen business sense is evident in the profitability of
her restaurants. She is constantly trying new things to encourage people to visit
the Sawatdee. She has sponsored the Sawatdee Thai Two On 5K Run/Walk for ten years,
developed a successful catering business, and has developed her own internet website
to relay important information, upcoming events, and sell food items. In addition,
she had a booth every year at the State Fair for over 25 years. Finally, her caring personality
is evident in the work she does for the community, the close relationship she
has with her employees, and the rapport with her patrons. Supenn Harrison is truly
a women of inspiration.