Successful Restaurateur Found Perfect Fit at Community College of Philadelphia

Yamilet Salcedo

Community College of Philadelphia has proven to be a potent lure for international students looking for educational opportunities in the United States. Once here, many choose to stay and make the city their home, adding to Philadelphia's vibrant ethnic mix.

That is what happened to Yamilet Salcedo Line, who came to Philadelphia from Venezuela in 2002 on a student visa.

Line was 25 when she enrolled at the College. She graduated in May 2004 with honors and an associate's degree in Business with a concentration in International Studies. That same year, she was named to the All-Pennsylvania Academic Team, sponsored by the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society, and received a full tuition scholarship to any state university or college in Pennsylvania. After graduating from the College, she earned a bachelor's degree in International Business at West Chester University in 2006.

Now 33, Line and her husband, Kenneth, own and operate the popular Pad Thai Restaurant on Second Street just below South Street. Line said the restaurant operation has allowed her to continue what she describes as an almost familial relationship with the College. She recruits waiters and kitchen staff from the College's Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management program. "I always go to Community College of Philadelphia when I need hires," Line said. "They have excellent people."

One of the best hires is Culinary Arts student Hector Vazquez, who works part time in Pad Thai's kitchen. "Hector is very smart and very responsible," Line said. "I can't wait until he graduates so that we can hire him full time."

The Lines first met and became best friends while she was attending the College. They married after she transferred to West Chester University. She had a degree in Engineering before coming to America to study Business. She attended several four-year schools both here and in California, but none were a good fit for the Venezuelan native.

"They were either too big or too cold or not friendly," she said. In 2002, she returned to Philadelphia and tried Community College of Philadelphia. She chose the College primarily for its affordability and because the College did not make her feel isolated like at the other schools.

The College also fulfilled Line's desire to interact with her fellow American students. She became a student ambassador, chaired the College's American Association of University Women's Scholarship Committee and worked as a Spanish tutor in the Central Learning Lab.

Tarsha Scovens, in the College's Office of Institutional Advancement, recalls Line as a vibrant personality who was very involved in student activities. "She just exudes positivity and has a lot of ambition," Scovens said.

Although she had a successful experience at West Chester, Line continues to think of Community College of Philadelphia as her academic home. "The people at the College were like my family. I was living there every day from eight in the morning until 10 at night," Line recalls. "I had everything that I needed there. I made good friends, and my professors were amazing."

Line also earned several scholarships from the College that helped her buy a computer, books and offset some tuition costs. "I want some day to give back to Community College of Philadelphia what they gave to me," she said.

Soon after their marriage, the Lines were offered an opportunity to buy the restaurant on Second Street near South Street in Society Hill. "As crazy as it sounds, it never passed through our minds to own a restaurant, but it was an excellent opportunity, so we went for it," she said.

Kenneth Line did not start out to become a chef. He has a bachelor's degree in Chemistry from Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science (now called University of the Sciences in Philadelphia) and a master's in Business Administration from Saint Joseph's University. However, he has a passion for cooking and learned his way around a restaurant kitchen with the help of friends and other restaurant chefs.

Although neither is Asian, the Lines decided to keep the restaurant's Thai menu. They did, however, remodel the restaurant to modernize the look and make it more attractive to diners. Business at the restaurant has increased dramatically, she said.

The hours are punishing. "This is a very demanding business. We are here every day. We think of the restaurant as our baby, and I baby-sit a lot," Line joked.

Line uses her business and marketing skills to manage the day-to-day activities of the restaurant, while Kenneth oversees the culinary operation. It has been a successful recipe. Pad Thai won City Paper's Philadelphia Choice Awards in 2006 and 2007.