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International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Connection of a Community and a Dream


Before the school year began, many students received their schedules and asked themselves the same question: who is Mr. Stone? At the time when Mr. Bourke left for paternity leave, Michael Stone just happened to be in the area, spending time with his parents after many years of teaching and traveling around the world. One of the places he stayed was a small old fishing village called Pipa, in the northeastern part of Brazil. The village is a touristy area, especially popular for its wind surfing and other water sports.

Mr. Stone and his spouse, Federico Eiguchi, decided they liked the place so much that they went back two months after vacation there and decided to realize one of their goals: to own a restaurant. Six months later, Restaurante Sawadee, a Thai bistro, was completely outfitted and ready to be opened.

Q: Why did you choose to open the restaurant?

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A: I’ve always wanted to own a restaurant, and my spouse is a chef, and the prices for real estate in this area in Brazil were cheap enough to where it was feasible.

Q: How long did it take to open the restaurant?

A: We basically went on vacation in Pipa during April and we decided to go back in June. So we were there from June through December building the restaurant, and the restaurant opened on January first.

Q: Is that relatively fast for a restaurant opening?

A: By Brazil standards yes, because it’s a slow process in Brazil. Number one it’s very hot the construction workers can only work as fast as their bodies will allow them to. Everything is driven by money, so if you don’t have your money in the country you have to send it. It takes time. It takes time to meet with lawyers, to have safety codes passed. But, in terms of Brazil it was very fast.

Q: Who provides the food for the restaurant?

A: There are farmers in the area that provide for the restaurant; so our beef is fresh, and the fish has to be fresh, all the seafood comes from two minutes away. We go to see the fishermen on Tuesdays and Thursdays. All the fruits and vegetables are locally grown so most of it is purchased locally.

Q: Why did you choose the name Sawadee?

A: Sawadee in Thai means welcome. The plan was to make it very inviting to local people and to tourists alike. So the prices on the menu reflect that because there’s a lot of people in Pipa where the restaurant is who would not be able to afford to go to a regular restaurant. Our philosophy is good food in a reasonable amount of time with good service.

Q: How did you get the people in the community to accept the restaurant?

A: We just tried to maintain good relations. We didn’t want to be the foreigners who were walking in and taking advantage of the community, we wanted to give back. We donate a certain percentage of every dish that we make, and the money we make on customers, to the local public school to buy computers. We also treated the constructions workers who were building the restaurant very fairly. We made sure they always had water, they always had coca-cola, drinks, something to eat.

Q: How smoothly did the opening of the restaurant go?

A: It didn’t go smoothly at all, there was lots of red tape all along the way. It was like climbing mount everest. Everyday was frustrating. The biggest frustration is that we thought we were going to open in October. We didn’t open till January. It takes time and patience and a lot of paperwork. Brazil is a place where there is a lot of bureaucracy and a lot of paperwork in any type of business that you do.

Q: Do you think it would be harder to open a restaurant in the United States or in Brazil?

A: It would certainly be more expensive to do it in the United States, then it would have in Brazil, but I think that if you have the resources in the United States, it might go a bit smoother and quicker in the physical construction of the building. Certainly another big problem that we had was the language barrier, we had to learn portuguese as we were doing this.

Q: What was the most rewarding thing about opening the restaurant?

A: I think the sense of pride in having accomplished something that was so trying and difficult. It’s been rewarding. And the restaurant is already starting to pay itself off in regard to our investment and that is unusually fast for a restaurant. I guess another sense of pride is that the restaurant gets very few negative reviews, everyone who eats there is happy.

Q: How has opening the restaurant affected your view of the culture and community in Brazil?

A: I’d say that it is a fascinating culture and community, the people are so phenomenally nice. At least the people in and around our restaurant. They’re very easy-going. Sometimes they’re really hard to understand, it’s very frustrating because they never say no but it’s hard to motivate them to do things when you need them to be done.

Q: What did you learn from opening the restaurant?

A: I think that i’ve gained an appreciation for being patient, not getting angry, and not getting frustrated. In a situation of business, especially in Brazil, you cannot become emotional. You have to smile a lot, you have to be patient, you have to have conversations, and eventually you will probably get what you were waiting for.

By Marta Maliszewska

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