By Luis F. Carrasco Arizona Daily Star, photo by Ron Medvescek
It’s a year of expansion for Bisbee Breakfast Club.
The restaurant, which opened in Bisbee in 2005, will have two new locations in Tucson by the end of the year: BBC Sunrise launched last month in the Foothills, at 4811 E. Sunrise Drive; and BBC Broadway is scheduled to open in October at Broadway Village shopping center, at East Broadway and Country Club Road.
Including the original, plus locations on West Ina Road and in Mesa, the Bisbee Breakfast Club will soon have five restaurants in the state. The Tucson restaurants employ 40 people with up to 30 more being hired for the larger Broadway location.
Terry Kyte is in charge of the Tucson operation. He is part of the ownership group, which includes his father and brother, that bought the Bisbee location in 2010.
The Star spoke with Kyte, who didn’t miss a chance to be self-deprecating, about getting started in the business, its growth and plans for its spinoff business, Ombre Coffee.
Q: How did you get involved in the Bisbee Breakfast Club?
A: I was brought on late 2010, early 2011, when the idea of a location in Tucson came about. My dad and my brother and a couple of the other partners, they needed some sucker to run the place, I guess, and said, ‘Here’s a guy with no experience, with nothing else to do. Maybe he’ll work out.’ I worked in Bisbee before that so I had a little bit of training to get going.
Q: Was it hard coming in with no experience?
A: There was a steep learning curve and I’m still figuring it out. I know what doesn’t work, I guess, that’s the easy thing. I’m still trying to figure out all the things that make it work.
Q: You’ve clearly had success.
A: I got really lucky, had an awesome staff to open with and had the original BBC in Bisbee to work from, sort of a template. Building off that legacy was sort of a leg up from opening another concept from scratch. We started with a good hand.
Q: How connected are you to the original in Bisbee?
A: That is part of the charm … our tagline is ‘a bit of Bisbee in Tucson’ so we did our best as far as our décor and the vibe of the place to match Bisbee and the BBC down there. There are cool photographs and stuff at the Ina location, and we just had the mural here (at the Sunrise Drive location) done by Bisbee artist Gretchen Baer.
Q: What do you offer customers?
A: We’re trying to be the classic American diner. I think for the most part that’s what people want, but we do have some more innovative, interesting stuff on our menu. For the most part people want bacon and eggs, maybe chicken fried steak. There are a few things we try to experiment with and daily specials where we try and push people a little bit, use new interesting ingredients and things like that.
Q: What’s the reaction been like at the new location on Sunrise?
A: Overwhelmingly positive. I did not expect this sort of response this quick. We still have some building to do, but it’s Monday at 10 a.m. and we’re basically full; I was not expecting that. People in this neighborhood, within walking distance and driving distance, have been looking for something like this for a while.
Q: What are your peak times?
A: We’re still figuring it out here, people came in pretty early this morning and we were probably a little understaffed for them, so we’re still adjusting. Part of it could be the honeymoon phase but it’s been pretty steady breakfast and lunch and this location. Over on Ina it’s much heavier breakfast and we’ve been working on building up our lunch.
Q: How are you splitting your time between locations?
A: It’s a little chaotic at the moment; I’m hoping it will calm down eventually and I can get on more of a schedule. Sort of just running back and forth between the two, putting out fires, if there are any, but for the most part I’m just here to shake hands and kiss babies. My staff is so well trained that I don’t technically need to be here.
Q: You have a growing coffee business, too. How did that start?
A: We went through phases in the Ina location where we started to buy higher-quality coffee and buying it from a roaster in Bisbee. … Somehow, somebody had the dumb idea that we should do it ourselves. I think it was my brother.
Q: How much are you producing?
A: We roast for the restaurants and have a few wholesale accounts, maybe a few hundred pounds a week. Not much in the wholesale coffee universe but it’s a lot for us. It’s sort of been my pet project until now, at some point I’m going to have to pass it off and build it up into a coffee wholesale company, maybe a few coffee shops down the road, if we’re feeling frisky.
Q: Why open two new restaurants this year?
A: Because of the locations themselves, I guess is the best answer. Broadway Village is coming through a resurgence, it’s gone through a few before, but it seems like the mix over there is going to be perfect. … This location (which was previously a gas station on Sunrise) was just too cool to pass up.
Q: Was there always the thought to expand the business?
A: I don’t think so. I think they threw it at me as a lark just to see if I would go down in flames or not.
Q: So far no flames?
A: So far so good. I’ve got a great staff, we’re feeding people, staff gets paid, the coffee is good. What else is there?