By Alex Gallagher
It’s been a long road to get back to 100% for a Scottsdale business that is much more than a gas station.
Established in 2012, The Thumb immediately began turning heads by offering a gift shop with creative Southwestern products and décor in addition to being one of the few stations to offer 95 gasoline — a blend of 91 and 100 octanes gasoline that is infused underneath the gas station.
It also developed a big reputation for award-winning barbecue.
However, the pandemic threw The Thumb for a loop after people stopped traveling, going to car washes and eating out.
Because of this, general manager Joe Berman lost most of his staff.
“We have worked desperately since the pandemic to try to get our staff up to a level where we could bring it back and introduce new menu items,” he says. “We’ve been working for a year to get this place staffed. We’ve just built our menu back up to almost where it was before the COVID-19 pandemic and getting our hours back up.”
Every corner of The Thumb was short on bodies.
“There are so many different facets to this business from gas pumps with 95 and 100 octane gas, carwash bays, a handcrafted bakery, a world-renowned barbecue, our fish tank has super high maintenance, our retail shop requires three full-time employees we needed wine buyers, and there was just a lot of moving parts here,” he says.
“In a place like this, we rely on a lot of people, and it’s been a challenge for us.”
However, Berman has found a way to keep The Thumb rolling onward even as staffing shortages and a backlog of supplies continue to plague his business and others.
“Staffing is the new epidemic, but we’re trying to circumvent that by creating a cool culture and paying a little bit above average,” Berman says.
“But even supplies, we have signs that we only do prime beef and we only use prime meats, and there have been times when we can’t get prime meats so we just didn’t serve prime meat.”
Berman cites apt planning as the reason for The Thumb’s ability to return to a full menu and offer events to call the community back through his doors.
His first event is an outdoor public market, one of the first farmers markets to return in North Scottsdale.
“There had been some markets up there, and they kind of popped up and closed,” Berman says.
“But when you walk into them, it has this small-town general store feeling, so it makes sense that we bring that small-town farm feeling to our parking lot and do something good for the community, do something good for ourselves and have some fun while we’re doing it.”
Berman reached out to his friends Ovi Carabas and Caroline Pimienta, who own Wellzona CBD and have been veterans of the farmers market scene for nearly three decades. The two jumped on board as partners of the outdoor public market.
Wellzona CBD was one of nearly 30 vendors who signed on for the market, which debuted on August 21.
The market includes items like juices, honey, teas, baked goods cheeses, tortilla chips, hummus, yogurts and sauces. The Thumb sells its breakfast burritos, and, once harvesting resumes, Berman expects to get more fresh produce.
An outdoor public market is not the only exciting new thing happening at The Thumb as free live music will hit the stage from 5 to 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Berman also teased that The Thumb could be expanding in the next two years with the addition of a drive-thru, a brewery, a separate coffee shop and more seating for dining patrons.
His goal, in short, is to keep building on his regrowing business.