SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA — Malee's Thai Bistro has been part of Old Town Scottsdale for more than 30 years.
It is located in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale's arts district, 7131 E Main Street, along Main Street near North Marshall Way.
Owner Deirdre Pain said she fell in love with Thai cuisine in the late 1970s after visiting a Thai restaurant for the first time. "I became impassioned by it. It was all I wanted to eat. I even tried to buy a Thai cookbook and failed miserably," she told ABC15 this week during a Zoom video chat.
She was also ready for a career change. After 20 years in social work and constantly dealing with serious, heart-wrenching cases, she admits she was a bit burned out.
Pain said she recalled being at a restaurant with a friend when the idea came to mind: "Wait a minute, that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to open up a Thai restaurant that would be the type of restaurant I'd like to patronize."
She wanted her restaurant to have an upscale dining room, a cocktail list, and a wine list, aspects she said she didn't see in other Thai eateries. She found someone to make the food and a financial investor.
Malee's Thai Bistro opened on August 3, 1987, she said.
"I figured, if I failed, I could always go back to social work, but I guess the God's of social work didn't want me," she said, followed by a slight chuckle. "This is where I am. This is where I want to be."
Like dozens and dozens of other restaurants trying to find their way during the COVID-19 pandemic, Pain is too. For the first time in 32 years of business, she's had to layoff most of her staff.
"This is something that I've never experienced. To be so uncertain and to be so, to not be able to tell my employees, look, in two weeks time, this will all be over and we'll be in business as usual. I think the worst part about this is all the unknowns," she said. Still, her employees are top of mind. There was enough money to give them their last paychecks. She also put together care packages for them.
And she wants people to know that like other restaurants, she, too, is open for carry-out and pick-up orders. If more orders come in, that gives her the opportunity to rehire more of her staff. They have created a GoFundMe account to support her employees.
They have also started a community-focused program to help those in nearby hospitals. Called "Buy a meal, Give a meal," people have the opportunity to purchase a meal -- any meal -- for the nurses and doctors working in hospital emergency rooms. They will be made, packaged, and delivered to HonorHealth Scottsdale Osborn Medical Center on their behalf.
IF YOU GO:
Malee's Thai Bistro
7131 E Main Street
We're Open, Arizona: We know this is a tough time for a lot of people in our community, including local restaurants and businesses. As local spots continue to serve takeout, look for ways to safely do business, and give back to our community, we want to share their stories. Visit abc15.com/open or email us at OpenInAZ@abc15.com.