Jin Lee / The Dartmouth Staff
A woman and her son arrived at the top of the three flights of stairs leading to Mai Thai Cuisine, planning to place a takeout order for lunch. The lights in the restaurant were off, and a middle-aged couple, the restaurant's new owners, sat on a bench in front of the closed glass doors. A piece of paper with the words "Sorry we are closed" hastily scribbled in black marker hung from the center of the locked doors.
"The restaurant is closed for probably a few more weeks," Robert Lamprey, one of the owners, said to the woman. "Sorry we can't do takeout for you, but come back and you'll be really pleased."
After Mai Thai suddenly shut its doors within the past month, the space will reopen under the management of Lamprey's wife, Chansuda, as a restaurant called Thai Orchid in March with a new menu, staff and design. Chansuda Lamprey plans to improve the quality of both food and service, she said.
"We've got some really good cooks lined up, and I think the food is going to be excellent," Lamprey said. "Our goal is to make it the best Thai restaurant north of Boston."
The couple will renovate the kitchen and interior and plans to overhaul the management to improve customer service, Lamprey said.
The couple brings previous restaurant experience to their latest venture. Chansuda Lamprey worked in restaurants in Thailand and the United States, including Mai Thai, soon after immigrating in 2007. Robert Lamprey has experience with the service side of the industry, he said.
Though his wife is an "excellent cook," Thai Orchid will employ other chefs, Lamprey said.
Students expressed mixed views on the recently closed Mai Thai restaurant, reflecting its two-and-a-half-star rating on Yelp.
"I went for lunch and liked it," Gillian O'Connell '15 said. "I might not have liked it as much if I went for dinner."
When Lindsay Haut '14 and a group of friends requested pad thai during a dinner at Mai Thai, the waiter informed the group that none was available that day.
"It's definitely a staple at Thai restaurants," she said. "But they served us some strange pad thai replacement."
Others said they hoped the new restaurant would improve on some of Mai Thai's shortcomings, particularly service and food quality.
Haut said she hopes the restaurant's new owners will improve its aesthetics.
"Hopefully they clean it up," she said. "It was a little grim."
The previous owner, Sommay Vorachack, decided to stop leasing the space and closed the restaurant, Jay Campion, the building's owner, said. Vorachack leased the building for 12 years, and Campion said he guessed that the former Mai Thai owner wanted to move on.
The restaurant's phone number is currently out of service, and the website is not functioning. Vorachack is on vacation at a family reunion in Thailand, Campion said.
When the new restaurant opens, the owners will redirect the website and update public listings in order to minimize confusion.
"Some signage would help," Campion said. "They were in touch with the sign person for the first time today, and I would hope that they would be able to come up with some temporary signs that would indicate the current status."
The Thai Orchid owners will have to obtain permits for the remodeling of the space, and any changes to signs on the building's exterior must go through the building owner.
With the exception of electrical repairs and maintenance and finish work such as painting and tiling, almost all modifications to a space require a permit from the Hanover zoning and planning boards.
No building permits have been filed for Thai Orchid, and the last permit filed for Mai Thai was from 1998.
Neither Mai Thai nor Thai Orchid is currently a member of the Hanover Area Chamber of Commerce, though Mai Thai has been in past years, according to a representative from the chamber. Mai Thai did not renew its membership with the chamber in 2013.