Robert Strong has operated a restaurant or two (Thai 9 and the former 5th Street Deli) in downtown Dayton for nearly 15 years, and is himself closing in fast on 50 years old. But, he says, he still laughs and jokes about with his friends “like we’re going to be 13 forever.”
Not a bad recipe for longevity.
Strong is currently knee-and-elbow-deep in a highly anticipated new project, the Canal Street Arcade & Deli, in the venerable space that previously housed Canal Street Tavern. Meanwhile, Thai 9, the restaurant he co-founded with his wife Nongyaw, recently completed its 14th year in business in Dayton’s Oregon District.
We caught up with Strong to find out a little more about our newest Daytonian of the Week. Here’s what he told us.
What’s your favorite spot in the Dayton area?
My back yard.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
What’s one word you think people would use to describe you?
Why did you decide to settle in the Dayton area?
We relocated from Cincinnati to open Thai 9 and start this adventure. I was born here and grew up in Pitsburg Ohio, (GO JETS!), in Darke County, so coming home and being close to my family and old friends was a great bonus.
How did you get involved with owning and running a restaurant that later turned into two restaurants that will soon turn into two restaurants, one with an arcade?
My wife, Nongyaw, put the idea of Thai 9 into my head. She worked at a few Thai restaurants in Cincinnati and is good at it, so it made sense. I personally never worked in a restaurant until I owned one. I was an audio engineer for many years, so I sort of worked in the industry, but I did not have any first-hand restaurant experience. Canal Street Arcade and Deli is more my thing, and I can’t wait to work with bands again.
What was the most challenging part of that?
Keeping up with my to-do list for both places and organizing my time and responsibilities.
How did you push through the challenge?
I have wonderful staff at both locations. Without them I would be lost.
What inspires you about Dayton?
The many entrepreneurs I personally know in Dayton and its history of innovators with the visions and the willingness to see those visions through.
If you could change or bring one thing to Dayton, what would it be?
Roller coasters, of course.
What do you think Dayton will look like in 10-15 years?
With the speed and success that downtown is changing and flourishing, I would love for Dayton to be more of a destination location.