By Allie Currie, Contributing Writer
Thai Smile, a popular hangout for families and college students alike, is having its grand opening on September 29th at 168 Front Street, formerly known as the location of Farmington’s well-known pizza place, Stone Hearth Café.
Due to the lease running out in the old Thai Smile building, the restaurant was forced to move by August 31st or otherwise would be shut down. Early this past year, Charlie Kloythep, owner of Thai Smile, tried to make a deal to rent out the Stone Hearth Café building from the owners, Jen Bjorn and John Moore. Eventually, Bjorn and Moore accepted an offer from Kloythep they just could not refuse.
Kloythep said the moving process has been really good so far, and he has high hopes for the grand opening of the new and improved Thai Smile. According to Kloythep some advantages of the new site are more parking, a full bar and more space for people.
The grand opening will be held in the form of a ribbon cutting with food samples available. Kloythep smiled as he explained the exciting new changes in store for the restaurant. “There will be more meal combinations, new food options and hibachi style meals.”
The closing of Stone Hearth was not an easy decision to make according to Bjorn and Moore. Bjorn and Moore originally opened Stone Hearth Café in April of 2014, their dream being to open a restaurant on 168 Front Street, but not necessarily own it. Bjorn is also the CFO at Kyes Insurance and owns the property management company Bjorn Realty, while Moore is the longtime owner of Narrow Gauge Cinemas and also owns several rental properties as well.
According to Bjorn, after experiencing frustration with ever present employee issues, when Thai Smile presented herself and Moore with an irrefusable offer, they decided the deal was a no-brainer. “This deal would allow us to continue to have a vibrant business in our restored building, reduce our personal workload and relieve us of some of the frustrations we were experiencing in running the restaurant,” said Bjorn.
When asked if she was relieved about closing the Café, Bjorn said, “On many levels running a restaurant is very gratifying but unfortunately this industry attracts an inordinate share of divas, egomaniacs, drama queens and kings. We experienced these pitfalls as well.”
Despite the seemingly uncomplicated deal, Bjorn and Moore struggled right up until the end of August deciding whether or not to close the deal. “The final decision was really about reducing our workload—it was just time to take a bit of a break—and this deal gave us everything we could have asked for,” said Bjorn. Bjorn and Moore also hinted about possibly opening up a Snack Shack this coming January.
One of the tenants living above 168 Front Street has had no complaints about Stone Hearth closing and Thai Smile taking over, other then she will miss eating at the Café.
UMF junior Cheyenne Van Dooren said, “I definitely did not expect the Café to close; it’s sad to see.”
168 Front Street is a historic building, having once been the manufacturing center of Chester Greenwood’s world famous earmuffs. When Bjorn and Moore bought the building, there were numerous structural and aesthetic aspects of it that needed to be rehabbed. “As the rehab continued, it became clear that this building would set up beautifully as a restaurant—and it does,” said Bjorn.