Marisa Wiruhayarn and daughter Darat are continuing the Tasty Thai tradition. Active n the EDC, the family business owners are outstading examples of successful entrepreneurs.
The story behind the Tasty Thai restaurant in Liberty is a remarkable example of entrepreneurial success.
Founded in Platte Woods 18 years ago by Marisa and Dom Wiruhayarn, Tasty Thai has expanded to include the adjacent Big Bowl Pho noodle restaurant, a second Tasty Thai in Liberty Triangle and Primal Cry hot sauce now selling nationally. While Marisa has been an especially active from the start, a new chapter in the family business is now under way.
Marisa’s daughter, Darat, purchased the Liberty restaurant last year. Although the move is part of several changes taking place, it’s also part of a story several decades in the making.
Half A World Away
The Tasty Thai story actually began in Thailand. Growing up, Marisa worked in her aunt’s market when not in school. In 1981, she met an American pilot on vacation. Her brother had to join their first date as an interpreter: the rest was like a fairy tale. The couple married in 1983 and moved to the U.S. They had two children and were anticipating a wonderful future.
Then Marisa’s husband died and the bottom fell out of her world. She was 27 and still learning English. Her education in Thailand included extensive math and science, but nothing transferred.
She then found invaluable support from her parents-in-law and discovered community organizations that helped with challenges like language. She attended adult education at night and, after earning her GED, attended Maple Woods. With grades so good she earned a full scholarship, she went on to Rockhurst University for a degree in accounting.
While at Maple Woods, Marisa met Dom, who would become her second husband. Her first father-in-law performed the ceremony.
Darat Wiruhayarn and Noy Sirithasack are continuing the excellent at Tasty Thai in Liberty.
In 2000, the new couple pursued a longtime dream and opened their own business, the Platte Woods Tasty Thai. Not long after, daughter Darat started working at the restaurant, helping after school and weekends. She quickly learned the complexities of running a business.
“I didn’t realize how much my parents did,” she explained. “The hours, working with employees it’s incredible how much there is to do.”
But like her mother, she also began to look for new opportunities. In 2009, she was working for the City of Kansas City but while driving through Liberty was impressed by the Liberty Triangle development. She noticed one space remained. After some discussion, the family opened its second location.
Now, nearly 10 years later, Liberty Tasty Thai enjoys a steady stream of customers even during “off” hours. The quality of the food is a big part, but so are the owners and staff. “I know almost every customer that comes in,” Darat explained. “I know what day they come and their favorite dishes.”
She also has some help: Noy Sirithasack has a big impact on helping her run the Liberty location, including daily operations.
Darat stresses she still has much to learn. “My dad told me, ‘If you cannot cook, you cannot own the business,’” she recalled. “Now I get it. It was a challenge, but to own the business, you have to get comfortable with everything.”
It’s also clear the family remains important. Darat’s brother, Sam, is an accountant and helps with the company finances. Marisa, even while occasionally caring for two grandchildren and traveling, is ever present.
“I’m not your typical grandma,” Marisa laughed. “Darat will make it on her own. I guide a little, but I don’t tell her what to do.”
Marisa also stays busy. She recently traveled to Thailand to reconnect with her family and also used the trip to explore international marketing opportunities for her Primal Cry sauce, which is already marketed nationally. She continues her cross-stitching, several of which decorate the family’s restaurants along with authentic two- and three-dimensional Thai art.
It’s likely the entrepreneurial path will continue for this family. Darat’s daughter is already getting lessons from her grandmother. “I’m teaching her it takes money to do things,” Marisa explained. “She is strong willed I wonder where that comes from! But she likes this work.”