For more than two decades, Billy and Soy Mettawiparee refused to take a day off from running their Waverly Thai Restaurant. Then, in December 2023, they were forced to vacate.

What followed were two months of anxious cleaning and restless nights, as the couple behind one of the neighborhood’s longest-serving restaurants struggled to chart a path forward.

Now, as of Tuesday, they have it figured out.

Thai Restaurant will be moving into a new location in Waverly, about two blocks from the eatery’s former home of 43 years, on the corner of East 31st Street and Greenmount Avenue. They aim to open by the end of 2024.

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A lease has been signed and a letter of intent shared. The recently rehabilitated space is expected to provide the Mettawiparees a chance to rebuild. No longer will their finances be consumed with repairing structural issues, as was the case in their previous location. The owners’ son, Nat Mettawiparee, said the debate now lies over whether to keep the faded red carpet. He is not in favor.

“There won’t be a carpet, less wood paneling everywhere — a little more modern” he said. “But I mean, we’re excited. We get to start with a blank canvas.”

A bright orange door greets guests at the front of the space. The restaurant will be smaller than their previous location, totaling about 1800 square feet. Down the block is Jinji Chocolate, a chocolate-making company months into their first storefront. Next door, residential tenants are beginning to move into a newly renovated building.

For two months, the family looked at other spaces, including the former location of Charmington’s Cafe in Remington. Each building had problems: either it required too many renovations, the rent was too high, or required leaving Waverly.

By staying in the area, Mettawiparee said, the business will be able to use the community’s outpouring of support to help transfer their liquor license and ensure a successful reopening. Many in Waverly were shocked by Thai Restaurant’s sudden closure last year, taking to Instagram to mourn the loss of their favorite spot for first dates and family celebrations.

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“This was a huge team effort to say to the Thai Restaurant and the family whose run it for so long, that we want them to stay here,” Councilwoman Odette Ramos said Tuesday to a small crowd gathered on East 31st Street.

Ramos and other local leaders helped the Mettawiparees find grant money to support the new restaurant. Diana Emerson, executive director of the Waverly Main Street organization, said they have raised 80% of the $200,000 needed to reopen.

The restaurant’s new building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, allowing the business to apply for tax incentives. The contribution of two private donors and grants applied for by the Central Baltimore Partnership helped with the fundraising. A GoFundMe has been set up for kitchen investments, such as a new hood for the oven exhaust system. Leaders at Johns Hopkins University are also in talks with Emerson about assisting the restaurant.

There remains a long process ahead: The restaurant must obtain permits, pass inspections and put the business together from scratch. Billy and Soy Mettawiparee are in the process of selling their home, and despite having savings, remain anxious about the future.

This outpouring of support isn’t typical for many businesses, according to Emerson. They either do not have the reputation worth fighting for or a community willing to do the work. When Thai Restaurant closed, she said, other neighborhoods sent tips on available spaces and organizations offered their services to help fundraise.

To generations of Baltimoreans, she said, the Mettawiparees have become family.

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