Food cart owner Nong balances life, work and play

| Print |  Email
Articles - May 2013
Monday, April 29, 2013

BY EMMA HALL

0513 FOB LiveWorkPlay
Food cart owner Nong is expanding her business downtown and in Southeast Portland.
// Photo by Adam Wickham

Narumol Poonsukwattana (Nong), 33, runs one of Portland’s most famous food carts: Nong’s Khao Man Gai. Her cart has won the hearts of food critics and the business-lunch crowd alike, despite serving only one dish — poached organic chicken and rice wrapped in butcher paper, a popular Thai street food with Chinese roots. Nong moved to Portland from Bangkok in 2003, working at Thai restaurants around town before deciding to start her own business. She opened her first cart downtown in 2009; three years later, she opened a second center-city location, plus a takeout kitchen in Southeast Portland. Nong’s special sauce, known for its cult-like following, is available at New Seasons Market, the Woodsman Market, Uwajimaya and other grocery stores. Where does a food cart maven get her own lunch fix? “Eurotrash and the Frying Scotsman are two of my favorites,” she says.

FEELING THE LOVE

“What keeps me going every day is just customers appreciating what I do. It gives me encouragement. It’s not even about the money. I see that what I put in gets rewarded. Recently, Timbers fans voted on food carts to serve at the games. We got a really good response and we won. It was very busy, amazing energy. Work can be very fun.”

EVEN KEEL

“I do rock climbing. I used to rock climb a lot when I only had one food cart. When I expanded I didn’t have time. Later, I realized it wasn’t good for me when I worked too much. I couldn’t think straight. This year my team works on their own more often, and my role as owner has changed. It’s important for me to be there for my team mentally, so I try to balance my life better. I’ve gone back to climbing more often now.”

NEWLYWED

“I’m satisfied with what I have in life right now. About a year ago I married Scott; he came into my life at an unexpected time. I was almost giving up on having a personal life. Dating is hard, and I was so focused on my work. But he’s a good guy. I’m so happy I found a partner who gives me good support. I have a dog … life is good [laughing].”

DOWNTIME

“My husband surfs. He has a little cabin with his friend. When I went along I had nothing to do, so I went to a driving range near the Tillamook Cheese Factory. I was never interested in golf before. When I hit the ball, it just felt good, so now I’ve started golfing. I also love gardening. I grow my own Thai herbs, like basil and lemongrass, that I use in my Asian cooking.”

NEXT

“In the future, I’d like to see my product in every grocery store, even outside of Oregon. I want to have more products out, like hot sauce and a gluten-free sauce. One day I want to be a good, big business. But I started from just one food cart. I see the first little location where I invested a lot of time and energy, and now see how [the business] is growing.”

 

More Articles

Best Foot Forward

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY CHRIS NOBLE

Whether you're stepping out to work or onto the track, Pacific Northwest shoe companies have you covered.


Read more...

Downtime with Debra Ringold

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Dean of the Atkinson Graduate School of Management, Willamette University


Read more...

Store Bought

July/August 2015
Friday, July 10, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER

Market of Choice is on a tear. In 2012 the 35-year-old Eugene-based grocery chain opened a central kitchen/distribution center in its hometown. The market opened its third Portland store in the Cedar Mill neighborhood this year; another outpost in Bend broke ground in March. A fourth Portland location is slated for the inner southeast “LOCA” development, a mixed-use project featuring condos and retail. Revenues in 2014 were $175 million, a double-digit increase over 2013. CEO Rick Wright discusses growth, market trends and how he keeps new “foodie” grocery clerks happy.


Read more...

Reader Input: Road Work

March 2015
Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Oregon's roads are crumbling, and revenues from state and local gas taxes are not sufficient to pay for improvements. We asked readers if the private sector should help fund transportation maintenance and repairs. Research partner CFM Strategic Communications conducted the poll of 366 readers in February.

0315 input01 620px

 

Reader comments:

"I feel private enterprises are capable of operating at a higher efficiency than state government."

"This has been used in Oregon since the mid-1800s. It is not a new financing method. This form of financing may help Oregon close its infrastructure deficit by leveraging funds."


Read more...

10 Innovators in Rural Health

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY AMY MILSHTEIN | PHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

Telemedicine, new partnerships and real estate diversification make health care more accessible in rural Oregon.


Read more...

Staffing Challenge

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY KIM MOORE

A conversation with Greg Lambert, president of Mid Oregon Personnel Services.


Read more...

The 5 highest revenue-generating parks in Oregon

The Latest
Thursday, June 11, 2015
parksthumbBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

In 2014, total revenue for camping and day use in Oregon State Parks was a little more than $17 million. That figure may even higher this year "because we've had exceptionally nice weather," Hughes says.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS