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Inside Bulloch Business with DeWayne Grice - New Coconut owners in Statesboro via NYC
Coconut Web
Amy and Kevin Kawpunna just took over Coconut Thai Cuisine at 7 College Plaza.

            Living in a university community brings culture and diversity that most communities our size would never experience. One area in which we are rich in cultural diversity is noted in our restaurant community.
        In 2008, we took a leap forward in this diversity when Ann Raiwa opened Coconut Thai Cuisine at 7 College Plaza, near 180 Fitness. Ann's engaging personality and "Americanized" Thai cuisine quickly became popular. Earlier this year, Ann sold Coconut to family friends, Amy and Kevin Kawpunna.
        Amy was born in Pattani, a small province in the South of Thailand. She grew up in a large family and learned the art of Thai cooking from her family, who are also in the restaurant business.
        After moving to New York City for school, Amy spent years perfecting her cooking techniques before she decided to open her own restaurant, "Noodies Thai Kitchen" in 2012. Noodies is located on 9th Avenue between 54th and 55th streets, in the popular touristy area of Hell's Kitchen in New York.
        Noodies is an edgy hot spot that has become a very popular place for tourists and locals alike. It is not uncommon for celebrities to dine with her in NYC. In fact, one of her regular guests is Guy Fieri of Food Network fame.
        Amy is passionate about sharing her genuine love for authentic Thai food. Amy puts her heart and soul into every meal she prepares for her guests, which is one of her secrets to success. After proving herself in NYC, she has relocated to Statesboro, realizing her dream of living in a small town and continuing the success of Coconuts.
        "I love NYC, but with three children ages 12, 5 and 4, Kevin and I really longed for a slower pace and better environment for them to grow up in. We had visited this area a few times and really fell in love with the people here," Amy said. "Ann had built a great restaurant and had a very loyal following. We felt that we could connect with her clients and see a lot of opportunity to grow the business."
        Kawpunna has made several favorable changes. Having food allergies and being allergic to MSG, all products and seasonings containing MSG were removed.
        Also, she has worked to create gluten free dishes, low sodium and other dishes that give health conscious clients more options. Every item on the menu is made by hand using the freshest ingredients possible and locally sourced when available.
        She is working to reorganize the kitchen work flow being more sensitive to her client's time limitations, especially at lunch.
        Kawpunna said Thai cuisine is prepared in a way that is designed to entice your five taste senses. Its unique flavors depend on certain ingredients native to Southeast Asia. Understanding this is very different from what most of their guests experience locally they have introduced a "spice" chart making sure they do not overwhelm you with seasonings.          When ordering you are given four seasoning options: kick, medium, hot or Thai Hot.
       "Our clients in Statesboro are much different from NYC where our primary clients are tourists," she said. "Here, we rely on a consistent base of local clients. For that reason, we have to really make sure each guests experience exceeds their expectations not only in food quality and presentation but also in the way our staff takes care of them and the atmosphere of the restaurant."
        Amy is very pleased with her reception in Statesboro. Coconuts faithful have embraced her changes and encouraged her to continue expanding options. They are now open daily for lunch and dinner and have added Sunday hours. She is hosting special events like birthdays and anniversary parties and is expanding her catering options.
        Over the summer Kawpunna said they will close for several weeks and completely renovate the restaurant with a goal of making it more edgy like her NYC restaurant with a goal of increasing her guests experience even more.
        Even a guy like me who enjoys nothing more than fine southern cuisine, has been impressed by how uniquely different and delicious Thai food can be. Step out of your routine and help welcome Amy to town by giving Coconuts a try. I predict you will be pleasantly surprised.

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