Written by Lisa Ledwith
From the beginning, Phanny Jones’s Chaffee County experience was all about kindness. In 1998, she came to raft with her Steamboat-based guide training class and local friends convinced her to stay for the summer. 25 years later, she’s still here.
Today Phanny owns Little Cambodia, a local restaurant serving pho and other asian foods. Appropriately enough, her first Salida job was service-based: bartending at Cornerstone Pub (located in present day Currents). She was nervous to try a new skill, but her regulars were understanding and she loved it immediately. Owners Michael and Michelle also bought her a jacket, pants, snowboard and a Monarch pass. “The kindness was just right away from this town.”
The community support kept coming. While working for Kathy at Amica’s, Phanny shared her dream of owning her own pho restaurant. With Kathy’s support, Phanny secured her first business loan and found Little Cambodia’s original location next to The Vic.
Phanny is originally from Cambodia and shares her culture through food. “I don’t think a lot of people here knew about Cambodia until they started talking to me and eating my food,” she says. “I feel like I'm an outlet for them to know this other part of the world.” She recently visited Asia with her kids. They all realized that hard times in Chaffee County are not the same as hard times in Cambodia. “Salida is like a little slice of heaven. But I want my kids to know that not every place is like Salida.”
Today, in her restaurant off of Hwy 50 and G, Phanny pays kindness forward to the community through food. She prides herself on serving fresh, healthy fare that always includes vegetables. “It takes me 8 hours to make a pot of broth. That’s how I put my love into my food, by taking the time to do it the right way.” She has a crew of teenage regulars who come for boba and spring rolls, and they make her day. “They’re always so polite,” she says.
Overall, Phanny loves Salida. She feels the community makes her kids better people. She loves snowboarding and nature. But she has to work incredibly hard to stay. Housing is a struggle, especially now: Due to a divorce, she is no longer a homeowner. Even with perfect credit, the housing market feels “impossible” for her on a single income. “I love living here,” she says, “but I don’t feel like I can afford to live here for the rest of my life, like I thought. I thought I would be able to live here forever.”