South Tempe residents Thom and Kathy Coker, owners of the popular T.C. Eggington’s restaurant in Mesa, will celebrate the second anniversary of their newest entrepreneurial venture, NCounter, later this year with a sense that they’ve encountered—and conquered—a restaurant’s traditional first-year challenges.
The breakfast, lunch and dinner restaurant, located on the ASU campus, appears to be well on the road to the same kind of success at the longtime Alma School/US 60 location.
The couple’s newest venture, which features menu items like fresh-baked cinnamon rolls, scones, muffins, fruit smoothies and coffee drinks, has been the ultimate in family projects, involving two years of planning and three generations of the Coker family, some of whom already have years of restaurant experience under their collective belts.
Twenty-seven years ago last November, the Cokers opened T.C. Eggington’s. Their daughters, Kyndal and Ashlee, were just 1 and 4 years old at the time.
“The girls grew up working in the restaurant and they understand the business, and both of them worked here a lot during high school and college,” Kathy said.
So when their daughters, as well as Ashlee’s husband Tysen Manuel, approached Kathy and Thom and said, “Hey, Mom and Dad, we want to get into the restaurant business too,” Kathy said they replied ‘Sure, why not?’”
“They said to us, ‘no offense, we like T.C. Eggington’s and everything, but we want to try a new approach,’” Kathy said.
“Basically, NCounter turned out to be a creation of ours that is a newer version of T.C.Eggington’s.”
Kathy said the five family members traveled around looking for ideas for the restaurant, including trips to California.
During part of the planning process, Ashlee was pregnant with twins and obeying her doctor’s order for bed rest; participation in family meetings had to take place from the couch.
After Ashlee and Tysen’s children, Carter and Mackenzie, were born almost four years ago, they accompanied their parents, aunt and grandparents at restaurant planning meetings in their highchairs, just as Ashlee and Kyndal had years ago when Kathy and Thom were opening T.C. Eggington’s.
After visiting several different potential locations in the Phoenix area, the family decided to open on the ASU campus, at 310 S. Mill Ave.
“We ended up saying ‘you know what? The Tempe campus is like home to us.’ We all graduated from ASU, it’s a great location right by the light rail, and there are 65,000 hungry students who are here too,” Kathy said, adding that Tysen is owner/manager of NCounter and Ashlee and Kyndal work behind the scenes.
Kathy said NCounter’s first year went “fantastically well.”
“It has far exceeded anything we ever expected, and is going much better than anticipated,” she said.
Opening a new restaurant from scratch has been “a fun experience,” Kathy said.
“It has been great working with our kids, and it got us learning new stuff too,” Kathy said.
“The kids are very technologically savvy, and are doing things at NCounter that we never have done at T.C. Eggington’s.”
Kathy said her daughters and son-in-law have enjoyed owning their own restaurant so much that they are already talking about expanding to new locations.
Although she and Thom loved being part of the planning process to get NCounter off the ground, Kathy said they are more than willing to let their kids take the reins from here on out.
“The kids have plans, and they definitely want to expand, but Thom and I are hoping to slow down instead of gear up,” she said, laughing.
“Mom and Dad are kind of done.”