LITTLETON — Emshika Alberini, a Littleton entrepreneur and the owner of Chang Thai Cafe who is nationally recognized in the restaurant world, has been named the 2022 Raymond S. Burton Business Leader of the Year.
The award was presented Monday during the 30th annual Littleton Area Chamber of Commerce economic development luncheon by Emily Herzig, owner of EH Floral, and Meg Brown, owner of Miss MegaBug.
Brown and Herzig were joined by sisters Stefanie Moody and Katie Stafford, owners of Bella Funk Boutique, who nominated Alberini for the honor.
Alberini “has been a strong and supportive voice in our community, inspiring and encouraging kindness, collaboration, and creativity from the very beginning of her career,” Herzig said to the nearly 100 area residents and business and community leaders turning out to the luncheon at the Littleton Opera House.
Alberini, a native of Bangkok who began cultivating a talent for making Thai cuisine by learning from her mother and grandmother, moved to New York State in the early 2000s to earn a graduate degree in organizational management.
It was during her studies that Alberini, with her sister Sriwipha “Ann” Phathan, conceived of a business plan for a modern Thai eatery.
After her sister, who was a source of inspiration, passed away in 2006, Alberini moved forward with their plan.
In 2008, she opened Chang Thai Cafe on Littleton’s Main Street.
In 2021, Alberini was featured on the Food Network’s “Chopped” with Martha Stewart. In the same year, she was named among the 200 of the most influential business leaders in the Granite State by the New Hampshire Business Review.
“She has made a profound and positive impact on Littleton’s Main Street community by leading through doing,” said Herzig. “She has profoundly and positively influenced our town’s sense of community and brought countless new opportunities and attention to our town, local community, and the entire state of New Hampshire.”
Alberini inspires others by what she creates and how she connects so personally with the people she works with and with her community, and she leads with “an unapologetic sense of determination and also kindness,” said Herzig.
“Her can-do attitude is undeniably a force to be reckoned with and the positive impact she has had on our community cannot be disputed,” said Herzig. “We are lucky to have her in Littleton.”
Alberini has paved the way for many entrepreneurs, both local and afar, and is a master networker who often shares connections and plans events to promote a variety of her chef friends, typically while supporting a cause, said Brown.
“As the owner of several commercial buildings in town, she champions her tenants and has rented space to an employee of her restaurant,” said Brown. “Bella Funk owners Katie and Stef wrote in their nomination that our Business Leader of the Year ‘is the epitome of success’ [who] ”radiates success as a leader and entrepreneur while going above and beyond to support her community’ [and] ‘is truly an inspiration’ … That’s the person our Business Leader of the Year is. She leads through kindness and generosity. She also proves that you can be small town and still have big dreams.”
In accepting the award, Alberini expressed her gratitude.
“Thank you everyone,” she said. “This is such a long journey, really long.”
Alberini said she is lucky to live in such a loving community and to be a business owner on Main Street, which, she said — while naming some of her entrepreneurial colleagues, a few of whom run newer businesses and others that have been established for generations — has everything.
“In the end, we have so many things,” she said. “You don’t have to go that far … The elephant is the symbol of my culture. That means family, friends, and fortune. I’m lucky today. Thank you so much.”