Tapping Into the Tastes of the Region
Nearly a decade ago, Dave Thomason passed up the greatest opportunity of his professional life. CEO of the Thomason Hospitality Group, which owns and operates more than 40 restaurants from Ashland to Beaverton, Thomason turned down former Oregon Senator and banker Brady Adam’s invitation to operate what is now the Taprock Northwest Grill in Grants Pass, which Adams and Evergreen Bank was developing. It was a decision that would haunt Thomason over the ensuing months as the impressive lodge-style log building on the banks of the Rogue River took shape.
Fortunately, the career restaurateur got a second chance. At the eleventh hour, the person engaged to run the restaurant dropped out due to lack of funding, leaving the door wide open. This time, Thomason jumped at the opportunity, and Adams was equally pleased with the change of plan. Taprock Northwest Grill opened for business in May 2009 and has been the centerpiece of Thomason Hospitality Group’s holdings ever since.
Although vacationers fill the 300-seat establishment to capacity during the tourist season, Thomason has taken care to make Taprock more than a seasonal eatery. “To be successful in a place like Taprock, you can’t do it with the idea or attitude that summer is going to make us,” he explains, “because that’s three plus months of the year. What are you going to do the rest of the year? We consider ourselves a regional destination restaurant.”
Originally from Southern California, Thomason and his wife moved to Grants Pass when their oldest child, Danae, was just three years old. Danae now acts as regional manager for the firm’s Pita Pits and Human Bean stores, and her husband holds a district manager position. Thomason considers his work force of around 600 people statewide, along with his Vice President of Operations, Terry Hopkins, to be key in the success of his business.
“It’s all about the people that you have, and we have a focus of finding the right people, rewarding them for what they do, and making them feel the incentive to stay and to work hard. We provide a lot of incentives for our employees to be successful,” he said.
The CEO has also demonstrated his commitment to the hospitality industry in the state by actively participating in the Oregon Restaurant Association and championing those issues that directly benefit the industry at large. He has served on the ORA board for 18 years and at one time was the organization’s president.
“I love what I do,” says Thomason. Over the 40-some years he has been involved with food service, he and his wife have owned and operated a number of restaurant franchises, including Carl’s Jr., Blimpie’s and Kenny Rogers Roasters. Despite the many challenges he has had to contend with, from state-mandated pay raises to losing a store because of a highway project, Thomason has found the franchise model to be a good fit for his firm.
In fact, he plans to franchise the Taprock Northwest Grill himself in future years, marketing the innovative brand prototype to others
who wish to tap into that success. He also plans to expand his other interests into new markets around the state.
“When you look at Southern Oregon, I think there’s a lot of attraction and reasons to expand,” says Thomason. He would like to see more big employers locate in the area, bolstering the local economy and attracting more visitors to the region. “The job market is terrific when it comes to the kinds of people that they need,” he adds.
“We absolutely love being here,” says the former Californian. “Overall, I’ve recommended this area to a number of people that are looking for something different. For us, it’s been the perfect choice.”
Thomason Hospitality Group | 1246 NE 7th St. Ste. B | Grants Pass, Oregon 97526 | (541)955-9506