ELMHURST — A popular bakery has expanded into a much larger space next door, and the owner hopes to create a larger community hub among the imported foods, coffee and desserts.
Chirawat Withanwattana, 30, opened Sugar Club on Broadway, near 82nd Street, three years ago, selling Thai desserts and prepared food inside the 400-square-foot location.
Now he's moved into a new space next door, at 81-18 Broadway, knocking down a wall between a Mexican deli and computer supply store to open up a bright, new Sugar Club with five times the seating and an expanded menu.
"I wanted to make the Thai community stronger," he said of his ultimate goal for the bakery, market, coffee shop and fruit stand on the busy street, which he runs with his wife, Pakaporn Ainthasamgrit, and other partners.
The old shop had a bulletin board to post information, events and apartment rentals, and Withanwattana plans to build on the space's use as a center for the community.
The new 1,200-square-foot space has a full market in the back with food and some home goods imported from Thailand. In the front there will be seating for 16 and free wi-fi.
Sugar Club also gets pre-made, authentic Thai food delivered every day from restaurants in Manhattan and New Jersey, including noodle dishes, sausages and dumplings.
Fridges are stacked with freshly-made desserts, and the small coffee bar in the middle will eventually sell coffee and fresh-squeezed juices, he said.
And once a month, Withanwattana plans to organize an event for locals to show off their talents, whether it's singing, painting or poetry, in the front of the shop.
"So many people here have wonderful skills, wonderful talents, but they don't have any opportunity or space to play," he said.
He hopes long-time residents and new immigrants can use Sugar Club as a place to meet and share information, which he said he didn't find when he first moved to Elmhurst five years ago.
"The first day I came to the United States, if I needed help or information I couldn't find anybody to help," he said.
"We all need to help each other — not only Thai, but everybody. This will be a place for people to meet."
Sugar Club, 81-18 Broadway, is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m., and Sunday from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m.