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Meet Colton Grubb of Grubstak in Downtown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Colton Grubb.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I grew up in Phoenix with strong family ties to the Valley. My Grandpa, Lou Grubb, was a fairly well-known community member thanks to his success in the automotive industry and his philanthropic work. My dad carried on the Grubb auto tradition, and I couldn’t be prouder to inherit their entrepreneurial spirits – only instead of cars, I wanted to create something entirely different in the Valley’s food scene. I live in Gilbert and happily married to my wife, Katie, who also happens to be a third generation Arizonan!

Past Experience:
My first job out of college was working in sales for the Phoenix Suns. This was right around the recession when turmoil hit our economy, so I had an incredible opportunity to learn early on how important it is to adapt, think outside of the box, learn from others and focus on only what you can control — which is your work ethic and attitude.

I did try my hand at the family biz for a while, spending time at different car dealerships in a variety of position across sales, service, finance and management in both corporate and privately-owned settings. This was also a great experience as I learned about different areas of business, especially the importance of customer service. I knew these skills would come in handy once I owned my own business.

Idea for Grubstak to fruition:
After a few years in the car business I had one of those career epiphanies where I knew this wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life, and if I didn’t make a change I wasn’t going to be happy.

A couple weeks after I left the car business, I had a casual conversation with my brother-in-law about how his favorite late-night snack in college was fried with tons of different sauces and dips. For whatever reason, I was intrigued with two ideas from this passing comment: First, how something simple like a French fry could be customized with nearly endless flavor combinations, and second, how fond memories are often created around good food and good conversations.

I had been toying with the idea of opening a restaurant, and the concept of offering customizable dishes with classic ingredients kept coming back to me. I also wanted to make sure to give customers the ability to be as healthy or indulgent as they want, a place you could eat at every day.

This idea grew and matured, and ultimately became Grubstak! A few things changed along the way (we use waffles fries instead of French), and I’m extremely proud of the healthy options for all our entrees with our roasted veggies. But we’ve remained true to my original idea of proving totally customizable, quality comfort food that brings people together.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
This journey hasn’t been without its challenges! It took about two years from starting concept to opening our doors, but I’d say the biggest obstacle has been brand awareness and introducing people to a new kind of food concept, even if all the ingredients are familiar.

I didn’t get into the restaurant business because I thought it would be easy, and as anyone in the food industry will tell you, there are a lot of hurdles to overcome. I’ve learned a lot in the nearly two years we’ve been open; there was definitely a learning curve and some trial and error. But as in any business, you’ve got to be able to learn from your decisions – good and bad. This is especially evident as we get ready to open our 2nd location this fall.

I’ve taken the lessons learned in opening the original location and adjust the process, rethought some things that I would have done differently the first time around, from how we’ve designed the layout and traffic visibility.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Grubstak www.grubstak.com story. Tell us more about the business.
Grubstak specializes in customizable comfort food ranging from waffle fry-based signature “Staks”, hearty & healthy salads, grilled cheese sandwiches and sliders, as well as unique breakfast creations on weekends. We are a family owned and operated restaurant with the belief unique food creations stimulate great conversations.

One of our proudest accomplishments in our first year of business was being featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” with Guy Fieri, where we cooked up our famous take on Chilaquiles.

How do you, personally, define success?
I’ll use a quote from the great John Wooden: “Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.”

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