PORTSMOUTH, Va. - If you live in Portsmouth, you may have walked past Bangkok Garden and not even realized it -- that is, until the aroma of the kitchen draws you in.
"We bring the Thai culture here [and] the Asian culture here to Portsmouth. We bring something new to Portsmouth," said Rungsi Adalem, owner of Bangkok Garden.
The locally-owned restaurant chain has deep roots in Hampton Roads. They have been serving up noodle soups and Pad Thai in the seven cities since the late 1980s. Currently, they have locations in Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Portsmouth.
About a year and a half ago, Pat Adalem and his sisters saw an opportunity to open a new location on High Street in Portsmouth, just across the path from the Children's Museum of Virginia.
They were about 90% finished with renovations when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The family decided to put their opening plans on hold.
"We keep opening [new locations]. I know it's scary. The first two weeks [of the pandemic] I would say [in total we saw an 80% loss], but we did not give up," said Adalem.
With the help of their real estate agent, Tony Goodwin, they seized the opportunity to buy the building and units behind it. Goodwin said it's the first time in nearly 20 years that those spaces will be filled with businesses.
"To have them come in and bring in a nice anchor, which is Bangkok Garden on the corner, [brings a lot of potential and economic growth for Portsmouth]," Goodwin said.
Adalem said that safe social distancing and carry-out options have also helped business. They decided to have a soft opening to make sure they followed state COVID-19 guidelines.
The restaurant is open every day of the week from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
With love mixed into every meal, Adalem said the secret to success is working hard and having family to lean on.