When Robert Kaskel wanted to open a Thai restaurant in Rockaway, there were two conditions:
1) his wife's sister had to be the head chef (easy).
2) the location had to be approved by his wife (hard).
Robert's wife found their present location and they both loved it: "It's a beautiful place right on the water. Next to a bridge. Next to a McDonald's, which was probably there since the 50s."
The restaurant had many previous incarnations as dive bars with names like Rockaway Lobster House and Bridge Cafe. Nostalgia for the venue was so strong that it contributed to the eventual success of Thai Rock. People remembered having their first kiss or even their first fight there.
One thing I wanted, from the very start, I wanted to have live music. I love live music. I knew going into this that once we got into this particular business, I would not have the ability to get out much. So I figured I'm going to bring the things in that I really want out of life. And I didn't want my life to be without live music.
One of the guys we had become friendly with when we first moved out to the Rockaways was a very wealthy individual.
We had lots of parties. He said to me at some point: "Robert, you and your wife are great hosts. Would you consider opening a restaurant? Because if you would, I would consider backing it."
When I proposed this place to him, he didn't envision a place the size of Thai Rock, so he backed off.
He had a big house in Long Island. He sold it, put everything in that house in storage, and became our neighbor.
I DIDN'T WANT MY LIFE
WITHOUT LIVE MUSIC.
After Hurricane Sandy, he says, "Rob, I got this beautiful piano in storage. You guys can have it. The only thing is you have to figure out how to get it here." I said, "Yes, absolutely! I don't know what kind of piano but I'll take it!"
I was amazed when I saw this. A grand piano. It's black. Lacquer finished. It's so beautiful, it even has a player module.
I'M SURE THIS IS THE MOST VALUABLE GIFT ANYBODY HAS EVER GIVEN ME.
The piano represents love. This is the love of a friend who wanted me to be able to survive and succeed. He knows of my love of music and dedication to keeping live music alive.
He certainly could have sold it for a lot of money. But he chose to give it to me.
I'm sure this is the most valuable gift that anybody has ever given me. Anybody. By a long shot.