Brandon Tjhang and his family run the Arroy Thai restaurant at Ray Road and 48th Street, Ahwatukee. With him are, from left, daughter Shania Tjhang, wife Montana Kaewlaiko and daughter Alyssa Tjhang.
Kimberly Carrillo/AFN Photographer

Brandon Tjhang and wife Montana Kaewlaiko didn’t need a brazen burglary of the Ahwatukee restaurant to remind them that they have good neighbors.

But the outpouring of support they received following the June 6 early-morning break-in at Arroy Thai on the northeast corner of Ray Road and 48th Street was still surprising.

And it made them think even more warmly of their neighborhood.

“Ahwatukee has been a good place,” said Tjhang, who helps run the restaurant that his wife owns. “A lot of people have been really supportive.”

The break-in easily could have ended badly for whoever committed the crime around 4:30 a.m.

At least one person climbed up an unsecured utility ladder to the roof, broke into an air-conditioning unit, slid six feet down through an 18-square-inch chute to the ceiling. Then they  had to jump down to the floor another 10 or so feet.

“They must have been pretty skinny,” Tjhang said. “They could have gotten stuck in that chute. It’s a one-way street once you get in: You either get to the floor or get stuck.

“You hear all the time about burglars getting stuck trying to break into a house down a chimney. That is no bigger than a chimney,” he added, pointing to the

Once in, the burglars broke into the cash register, stealing an unspecified amount of cash, rifling through papers on a shelf below and then setting their sights on what Tjhang thinks was the real target all along: the Verizon phone store next door.

They first ripped a hole in the wall in the kitchen, trying to break into the Verizon store, but ran into a concrete wall behind the plasterboard. Then they went into the bathroom and did the same, finding success.

But the surveillance camera-equipped alarm went off immediately, giving the thieves only a few minutes to escape through a back door – likely empty‑handed because the store’s expensive cellphones are locked in a vault.

Although some Ahwatukee social media sites buzzed about crime in the area, Phoenix Police said only one other criminal incident in the area has been reported this year.

Earlier this year, a man with a gun held up the Subway sandwich shop on the same corner, and last December, a bicycle theft and a burglary were reported in the area.

“I feel secure here,” Tjhang said, relieved that no more than about $1,500 damage had been done to the walls and that he had to close only a few days for repairs. The thieves never disturbed the food, beer and other beverages in the kitchen.

The restaurant has been open only about seven months and carries a menu reflecting its name – “arroy” is a Thai word that diners use when a dish tastes good, Tjhang said.

With an emphasis on fresh and homemade dishes, he said his wife’s goal is to bring authentic Thai food to Ahwatukee.

“If you go to Thailand, you’ll taste the same food there,” he said.

His wife does some of the cooking while he tends to a variety of tasks. Two of their three daughters also pitch in as part-time employees.

Tjhang’s big responsibility: “I’m not good at cooking, but I’m good at tasting.”

“I try to taste different dishes every day,” he said. “If I don’t like the way something tastes, I tell the cook to do it all over.”

He also rigidly enforces rules to maintain cleanliness and keep out bugs, making sure every night that when the restaurant closes, not a crumb can be found anywhere.

Tjhang and his wife also are big on making the restaurant an integral part of their neighborhood. He said high school students like to come by in the evening and as long as the restaurant isn’t full, he lets them hang out.

“We are part of the community, not just a business,” said Tjhang, who chose the location for the traffic.

And he’s not about to move, despite the first crime he and his wife have ever encountered in the restaurant business.
“The property management company is very good,” he said. “And we feel very secure.”

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