Tuk Tuk Thai to open second location in West Lebanon
While many local businesses have struggled or closed during the pandemic, Tuk Tuk Thai Cuisine is now planning to open a second location in West Lebanon. The new location will replace the Dunkin’ off Main Street in West Lebanon and is expected to open this spring.
According to Tuk Tuk owner Pannipa Pace, the second location will serve all the signature dishes from its Hanover menu, in addition to new sushi options and a bar that will be open at night. She attributes Tuk Tuk’s success over the past several months to an increase in takeout and delivery orders from Upper Valley residents and students living off campus.
Pace noted that she also considered White River Junction as a possible location for the restaurant, but West Lebanon eventually won out due to its vibrant commercial scene and proximity to Pace’s home. She added that she hoped the second location would help the business reach the previously untapped customer base in Lebanon.
“People in Lebanon don’t want to come to Hanover. It's a lot of traffic and it's hard to find parking,” she said.
Lebanon mayor Tim McNamara, who oversees West Lebanon, said that because many interstates pass through West Lebanon, the area is ideal for takeout and delivery, especially with the current pandemic curtailing indoor dining.
“It's important to realize that area, particularly given its proximity to interstate exits, from [I-89] to [I-91], is really the commercial hub for 30 miles around,” McNamara said.
Pannipa’s husband, Ken Pace, said that the West Lebanon property became available for purchase in early September, and Pannipa was immediately on board. Ken Pace noted that Pannipa has always wanted to “own [a] building, … put her stamp on it and make it absolutely beautiful.”
Although acquiring the second location was a serious investment, Pannipa Pace is looking forward to the new opportunities a new restaurant will bring.
“It's like a new baby — I love it, and I’m happy to put money towards it,” she said.
Still, the couple acknowledged that the pandemic made the decision a risky one. They bought the building from Chiplin Enterprises for around $450,000, according to Ken Pace.
“We know we’re taking a risk with COVID,” Ken Pace said.
However, he said that takeout and delivery have become more popular, and he believes this trend may continue after the pandemic, benefiting the West Lebanon location.
According to Lebanon city manager Shaun Mulholland, the city welcomes the opening of a second Tuk Tuk location as an alternative to fast food chains and an addition to the diversity of restaurants in the area.
“I think it's a great opportunity because it provides a greater variety of different types of food for people to eat,” Mulholland said. “It's good that we continue to diversify and keep [the] Route 12A shopping sector healthy.”
Upper Valley Business Alliance executive director Tracy Hutchins echoed this sentiment, especially since she has seen businesses close during the pandemic.
“Certainly, this has been a difficult time for restaurants in particular,” Hutchins said. “But the fact that Tuk Tuk is able to expand what they're offering, and particularly because their model will be takeout — I think it's just wonderful.”
Students and locals have reacted positively to the news of a second Tuk Tuk location. Hanover resident and computer science professor Andrew Campbell said that he was glad to see a local business thrive in the middle of the pandemic.
“I think it's fantastic because we need great food and we need to support local restaurants, so [having] a new place over in West Lebanon is great for people over in West Lebanon,” Campbell said.
Vi Nguyen ’21, a student living off campus in Lebanon, also expressed excitement at the prospect of being able to order delivery from the new location rather than having to drive to Hanover to get takeout. She also looks forward to the additional option for Asian food in the area.
“It’s really great to see Southeast Asian representation for a local business and in the Upper Valley,” Nguyen said. “For them to be at a point, especially during COVID, where they can expand their business like that, is just really great.”