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Meet Debbie Thomas

Today we’d like to introduce you to Debbie Thomas.

Hi Debbie, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
I was working in the sporting goods industry for Adidas in sales and marketing when my two largest accounts closed. Adidas asked me to move to take over another major account but I loved Paso Robles and did not want to move. At the time, I also owned a 10-acre organic farm, which led me to reinvent myself as a restauranteur. I loved fine dining and wine so I thought, “I’ll open a restaurant, how hard could this be?” I opened the restaurant over twelve years ago on January 15, 2009. We were a farm-to-table restaurant with an emphasis on organic. It took three years to get noticed since farm-to-table was not as prevalent in Central California, plus our entrance was in an alley. Today we are one of the top restaurants in Paso Robles.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
The first three years were challenging. I believe they say if you can make it three years in a restaurant your golden. However, I don’t believe that to be true. There are constant challenges along the way. Restaurants have low-profit margins so you need to watch your food cost and payroll constantly. Especially as a high-end restaurant the products we bring in cost more but the consumer is not always willing to pay more. One of our biggest struggles has been maneuvering through COVID, the closings and openings, 25% indoor, no indoor, etc. We had the opportunity to use our neighbors “patio” for additional seating when the Governor closed indoor dining. I don’t think we would be open today if not for their generosity. We also had to completely change our menu when we were closed to accommodate a To-Go menu. We decided to do ‘Round the World” cuisine since our chef was Indonesian and German. It worked out well since no one else was doing this at the time. Although we are back open for outdoor seating we still struggle to make ends meet at a 30% less capacity.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
My background is marketing and I have worked for companies like Foot Locker and Adidas. My job was to predict the future of the accessories market and determine what our consumers would like a year from now. Sometimes I was right and sometimes, I was way ahead of myself by a few years. I loved it as I traveled all over the world “shopping” to get inspiration or to see what other trends were on the horizon. This has played a significant role in my managing a restaurant. I am always thinking of the next “new” thing to set up apart. Before COVID, we had just opened up a dessert and piano bar. Our guests loved it and it was packed on Friday and Saturday nights. Unfortunately, it was “inside” so we had to close it. Now the pianist has moved next door to perform at his own shop.

Can you share something surprising about yourself?
I moved up to Paso Robles to retire not to open a restaurant. Which by the way is the hardest thing I have ever done. We planted a 10-acre organic farm on the outskirts of downtown Paso Robles. We started a CSA program where our neighbors would buy baskets of produce from us. Once I opened the restaurant we continued the baskets at the restaurant. Although I do not have the farm today I still buy locally. Also, I have run 4 New York City marathons and finished in the top 4% of the woman!

Pricing:

  • Starters $9 to $20
  • Lunch Mains $17 to $21
  • Dinner Mains $20 to $48
  • Brunch Mains $14 to $21

Contact Info:

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