MEXICO — An iconic River Valley eatery may close its doors for good in October and reopen as a Thai food restaurant, offering a menu far removed from the simple, meat-and-potatoes fare served on Main Street for 66 years.
The Mexico Chicken Coop, at 41 Main St., opened in 1947 and, despite ownership changes, has maintained its unpretentious interior decoration and menu, boasting crowd favorites like bite-size turkey and seafood.
A shake-up is coming, however. On Friday, Chaiwat "Charlie" Kloythep, the owner of Thai Smile and Sushi restaurant in Farmington, confirmed he is in the process of buying the property. A final sale of the restaurant has not been announced, but Kloythep said he would like to have the new eatery open by the end of October.
The Chicken Coop building, which includes several second- and third-floor apartments, has been on the market since 2007 and is being sold through Mexico-based Riverside Realty. The asking price, according to Riverside Realty's website, is $199,000.
Kloythep, who opened Thai Smile in 2011, said he was looking for a place to expand and thought the property in Mexico was a good opportunity. He plans to bring in an all-Thai food menu and said the restaurant's interior will be redecorated to match its new food offerings.
The addition of a Thai-food restaurant would give people in the Rumford-Mexico another option to eat in or take out, Kloythep said.
Speaking from the restaurant on Monday, waitress Debbie Pepin said she and other employees were anxiously waiting to hear about a final sale.
Owner Catherine Ross, in a phone interview late Monday night, confirmed that the property is under contract, but said the sale is not final.
The previous owner, Mark, Catherine's husband, who bought the building in the late 1990s, passed away in 2007.
A server at the Chicken Coop for 39 years, Pepin said rumors of the sale were ruffling a few feathers in her crowd of regulars.
"A lot of the patrons have been coming here for decades," Pepin said. "They're upset; they don't know where they're going to get their pepper steak sandwiches, clams, scallops and bite-sized turkey."
At the same time, Pepin said she was excited to see what the change will bring, especially if it means she gets to keep her job.
"They hate to see it change, but maybe that's what this town needs, something different," Pepin said.
Peter Phelan, managing editor/nights, contributed to this report.