LETTER: Thank you

Aree Proctor/Leavenworth

To the editor:

I would like to thank all of our friends and neighbors and our many wonderful customers in Leavenworth, Lawrence and Manhattan for your wonderful notes, messages and comments over the last week after my husband, Rep. Pat Proctor, and I announced that we were being forced to close Baan Thai Restaurant in Lawrence because of the labor shortage that has stricken Kansas.

But I also feel that I must say something about the bitter and hateful comments that we have received from a small, loud, angry group of people over this same period. It hurts me deeply. I have not spoken out before now because I am a very busy woman with a very busy life. I can’t spend all day on social media like some of these vile people. But they have simply gone too far. I must speak.

Since we arrived in Leavenworth in 2006, my husband and I have worked so hard to make our community a better place. We have invested tens of thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars in revitalizing our city, providing homes and jobs for our neighbors and bringing the most authentic Thai food in the region to our adopted hometown of Leavenworth. 

Yet these hateful people, for example, say that we don’t have enough employees because we mistreat our workers or pay them minimum wage. I encourage any of these people to come to my restaurant and talk to my employees and ask them how much they make or whether they are happy to work with us. Ask the 16-year-old high school student in her first job, or my son, or the disabled Army veteran serving you in our dining room here in Leavenworth how badly we treat them or how we are paying them “slave wages,” as these vile people claim. Ask my Leavenworth employees about how they suffered during the all-expense-paid trip to Las Vegas on which we took them all a couple years ago or the gold, televisions, computers, electronics and cash gifts that we give our employees at Christmas every single year. Or talk to the employees for whom we have given or cosigned on loans or the employees that we provide with very low cost housing at each of our locations how badly we treat them. And be sure to ask the employee that we hired out of the homeless shelter who now has a home and a car if we pay her a “living wage.”

This labor shortage is everywhere. I have to travel to Sysco foods in Olathe because, for the past three weeks, they have not delivered to most businesses and facilities in Leavenworth due to a lack of drivers. I had to beg them to let me come pick up food because they also do not have employees to pull the pallets out of their warehouse for each of the businesses they serve. This company pays $20 per hour plus benefits and they still can’t get employees.

Again, I appreciate the well-wishes and kind words from the vast majority of our neighbors. And my husband and I so appreciate that the city of Leavenworth threw its arms around our business and kept us going during those difficult months when we were virtually completely shut down by government restrictions. But I am deeply hurt by these vile lies from this small group of loud, angry people. 

– Aree Proctor/Leavenworth