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Ch-ch-changes in WRJ, as the Polka Dot sign comes down and the Phnom Penh sign goes up (video)

A man prepares to remove the Polka Dot sign in White River Junction, Vt., on Sunday, Aug. 19, 2018. (Maggie Cassidy photograph)

White River Junction! You’re movin’ so fast!

In May, we told you about plans for Lebanon-based Phnom Penh Sandwich Station to open a second location in White River Junction at the former Polka Dot Restaurant site.

This afternoon, those plans became more visible as one sign came down and the other went up.

Check out video from our Facebook page below.

Of course, this scene played out against the backdrop of new construction.

Developer Bill Bittinger recently finished construction on that new building behind the restaurant, and it includes a mix of apartments and first-floor businesses, including JUEL Juice + Smoothies and Little Istanbul, a shop of Turkish wares run by the same folks who run the Tuckerbox Restaurant across the street. I can personally attest that JUEL Juice + Smoothies (which started out as a sweet little food “truck” and is now a full-on “modern apothecary cafe” with coffee, snacks and more) was bustling on Saturday!

Phnom Penh Sandwich Station to open a second location in the Polka Dot Restaurant building in WRJ

The Polka Dot building in White River Junction, Vt., on May 8, 2018, is one of the properties owned by developer Mike Davidson’s Execusuite. (Valley News – Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

One more thing after our away message announcing that we’re off until June 4, bc it’s BREAKING SANDWICH NEWS:

· White River Junction is getting a Cambodian sandwich shop in the old Polka Dot diner building.

· Phnom Penh Sandwich Station, which already has a building in downtown Lebanon, plans to open a second spot.

· They have signed a lease and hope to open later this summer.

The team behind developer Mike Davidson, who manages properties under the LLC Execusuite that bought the long-shuttered Polka Dot earlier this year, said as much in an email to Valley News business reporter John Lippman this afternoon. Execusuite won site development plan approval last month from the Hartford Planning Commission.

“Welcoming yet another family business to Downtown WRJ is a source of pride for our entire team,” said Tim Sidore, general manager of Ledgeworks, which manages Execusuite commercial and residential properties in White River Junction and Lebanon. “We’ve worked hard to bring a diverse collection of dining,entertainment and housing options to Hartford and Sarin Tin’s operation will be a welcome addition!”

Phnom Penh Sandwich Station is owned and run by the wife-and-husband team Lay Yi of Sarin Tin, who began selling their Cambodian-style sandwiches at the Hanover Farmers Market in 2016 and then from a food truck (way before food trucks were cool in the Upper Valley) before finally graduating to their own storefront on High Street in Lebanon last year. (Also, it’s home to one of my favorite sandwiches in the Upper Valley — the Phnom Penh sandwich with tofu — so there’s that.)

Davidson, who owns a cluster of commercial and residential properties along South Main Street in White River Junction, bought The Polka Dot diner building from previous owner Mary Shatney for $90,000 in February.

(No word yet on whether Polka Dot will be incorporated into the name of the second location. Sidore has previously said the company was searching for a tenant who would keep “Polka Dot.”)

Sreang Tin cooks over the grill in Phnom Penh Sandwich Station on May 19, 2016, in Lebanon, N.H. Lay Yi his daughter-in-law works beside him. (Valley News – Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Here is Sidore’s email to the Valley News in full:

Execusuite, LLC and Phnom Penh Sandwiches Station, LLC of Lebanon are excited to announce they have signed a lease agreement for the iconic Polka Dot Restaurant space in downtown White River Junction. Phnom Penh’s array of authentic Cambodian food has proven to be a winner in Lebanon, and their second location will be a welcome addition to the Vermont side of the river.

 

Execusuite and Ledgeworks, Inc, area redeveloper Mike Davidson’s real estate holding and management companies, respectively, are proud to restore this beloved jewel of WRJ’s past. Resisting calls to raze the former diner, the Polka Dot now becomes Davidson’s latest restoration. Recent projects include the conversions of the former Lebanon Junior High School, College Cleaners, and Roy’s Gulf Station (now Lucky’s Coffee Garage).

 

Welcoming yet another family business to Downtown WRJ is a source of pride for our entire team. We’ve worked hard to bring a diverse collection of dining, entertainment and housing options to Hartford and Sarin Tin’s operation will be a welcome addition!

 

Work is already underway at the Polka Dot, including replacement of the heating and electrical systems, expansion and remodeling of the bathrooms, and interior/exterior repairs and restoration. Sarin Tin, the proprietor, anticipates opening for business later this summer and looks forward to meeting the WRJ community. In the meantime, he looks forward to welcoming you to his Lebanon restaurant!

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And the hottest sandwich in America right now is …

Banh mi, so hot right now.

The Vietnamese sandwich is in high demand, according to MoneyOften made with grilled pork, cilantro and pickled carrots and served on a baguette, the bahn mi is gaining popularity — get this — primarily due to Millennials.

Yes, the people who can’t afford houses because they love avocado toast and who are killing malls also are responsible for the rise in this apparently quite tasty sandwich. You’re welcome!

I’m no sandwich expert (that’d be Maggie), but in the Upper Valley, it seems you can get a bahn mi, or something quite similar, at Phenom Penh in Lebanon.