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The COVID-19 pandemic didn't stop this business owner from opening shop in 2020

Tuk Tuk Thai now has 3 Tucson area locations
Tuk Tuk Thai
Posted at 5:42 PM, Jun 01, 2023

ORO VALLEY, Ariz. (KGUN) — While many restaurants were closing permanently in 2020, one owner saw an opportunity and took a leap of faith that has paid off three years later.

"It's been a rollercoaster from when we first opened during the pandemic," said Bud Sayso, the owner of Tuk Tuk Thai.

In 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic had a global impact on various industries, the food and beverage sector was among the hardest hit.

This industry is where Bud Sayso has been for 22 years.

He says his savings depleted rapidly during the onset of the pandemic as he retained all of his employees despite the impact COVID-19 had on his business.

"It was scary, but I didn't show it. I told them we'll do okay. But I was smiling; I'm [unintelligible] but I'm dying," Sayso said. "But I didn't show it because I [needed] to show them that we will be okay."

Tuk Tuk Thai is a no-frills restaurant that serves authentic Thai dishes.

The Texas native was already running a Thai restaurant in Portland, Oregon, where he was living at the time, when he made one of the biggest leaps of faith in his 22-year career.

"My wife encouraged me," Sayso shared when asked about the choice to move operations to Tucson.

Sayso spent about a year planning and traveling back and forth from Portland to Tucson before officially opening in September 2020.

He says his previous restaurant in Oregon was sold to his employees.

When asked if he ever questioned what would happen if it didn't work, Sayso replied, "No, I'm positive; I'm very positive."

He currently operates their original location on Campbell Avenue, as well as the locations in Oro Valley and Ventana Canyon.

He realized the potential for expansion when the restaurant on Campbell Avenue became popular from day one, and he noticed many people from Oro Valley dining there.

Today, Sayso says business is booming across his three locations, a testament to taking risks during challenging times.

He hopes his success inspires future business owners.

"Do your homework, and you have to love what you're doing," he said. "Because most people will say they want to open a restaurant for fun. It's not fun, it's hard work."

Kenny Darr is a reporter for KGUN 9. He joined the team in January 2023. Before arriving in Arizona he was an Anchor and Reporter at KADN in Lafayette, LA. Share your story ideas with Kenny by emailing or by connecting on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.