We had the good fortune of connecting with Brian Koren and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Brian, do you disagree with some advice that is more or less universally accepted?
That the customer is always right/customer comes first. I have always held the belief that your people come first. If you stand behind your employees and they trust that you will back their decisions, they will do the right thing when it comes to the customers. I have always empowered my teams to make what many consider “managerial” decisions with customers on their own. Because they know I trust their judgement and will back their decisions, my teams repeatedly make the right calls and, in a round about way, put the customer first.

What should our readers know about your business?
I am the owner of Thunderbird Equipment Service. We specialize in the installation, repair, and maintenance of both commercial and residential coffee equipment. We service espresso machines, coffee brewers, coffee grinders, water filtration units, and as of just recently, coffee roasters. What sets us apart from our competition is two fold. First, we realize that we are in the business of serving people; the equipment is just a part of their daily routine. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing the relief of a barista or café manager when we walk in the door and the smiles when we are walking out. We consider ourselves an employee or partner of every account we have; their customers are our customers. Second, we put people before profit. We take the time to understand the needs of our customers and work with them to find solutions. Very often we work far outside the range of what many other companies consider normal working hours and we do it without upcharge if it meets the needs of the customer. Our customer base is primarily small coffee shops and restaurants with limited budget for equipment service. We try to make emergency repair and preventative maintenance affordable and timely for them. We believe you shouldn’t have to be a regional or national chain to get great service and support for the equipment that drives your business.

I started Thunderbird Equipment Service in my garage in 2018. There has been a need for additional commercial and residential coffee equipment repair companies in Arizona for many years. Having been in the commercial coffee industry in different capacities since the early 2000’s, I knew the opportunity in Arizona was available. I saw the need for an additional service provider and decided it was time to help!

Growing this business slowly and with a great deal of control and forethought has been my strategy from day one. All too often I have seen small business grow too quickly and in an uncontrolled manner, ultimately resulting in failure. Knowing when to say no to a big opportunity has actually been one of the reasons the business has done so well to this point. COVID put a massive hitch in the business, as it did to so many others. With restaurants and coffee shops closed, the commercial side of the business dropped to almost nothing for almost a year. I had an opportunity to expand the business into a massive shop with multiple technicians and the promise of a very large, state-wide account right before COVID hit. I knew I wasn’t ready and the business model wasn’t ready for such a big jump at such an infantile stage. If I had agreed to expand and spent the capital to support the potential business, I would have had to shut the doors only a few months later due to COVID and its negative effect on local business. The situation reinforced my belief that slow and steady will be the ticket to sustained growth and continued positive returns.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
32Shea is always at the top of my list when someone comes to town. It is the perfect little café and restaurant in what is affectionally called the “Shea-bourhood” by many in the area. As the name implies, it is located on the corner of 32nd St and Shea Blvd. It transforms from a coffee shop in the morning to a full service restaurant and bar in the afternoon and evening. Their outside patio is one of the most relaxing settings you will ever have a cocktail in and it’s dog friendly! Make sure you order their bruschetta board!!

The Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) is an amazing museum in North Phoenix that routinely has special exhibits focusing on a specific musical artist or genre of music. No matter what your tastes in music are, there is bound to be an exhibit or event at the MIM that will get your foot tapping. A year or so ago they had a special exhibit on Janis Joplin, complete with outfits that she performed in, vignettes on concerts, behind the scenes interviews, and instruments that her backing band used on stage.

For BBQ lovers, the Trapp Haus BBQ in the Roosevelt Row of downtown is an absolute must. Owned by Phil “The Grill” Johnson, the Trapp has the best assortment of BBQ favorites as well as some unique takes on both “traditional” BBQ fare and New York favorites like the pastrami Reuben. The setting is incredible and you will probably find Phil walking around and saying hello to his customers (if he isn’t in the back conjuring up more BBQ magic).

Outdoor lovers have to hit one of the many hiking trails in and around the Phoenix area. One of my favorites is the Tom’s Thumb hike in the McDowell Mountain Regional Park. It’s a 4 mile out and back trail that will test the avid trail hiker. For one of the best scenic hikes, the Telegraph Pass trail is the way to go. When you get to the top of the Telegraph Pass trail, you link up to the National Trail Lookout. You get rewarded with an incredible 360 degree view of the entire valley. On a clear day, you can see all the way across the valley to the Phoenix Sonoran Preserve to the North and the White Tank Mountains to the West.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My manager while at Vixxo, Gary Stevenson, has been instrumental in my growth as a businessman and leader. Very early in my professional career, Gary put me in front of high level executives with some of our company’s largest clients. He showed an immense amount of trust in me and I have utilized his advice and exemplary leadership examples when making critical decisions for my own business.

Website: thunderbirdequipment.com

Instagram: @thunderbirdequipment

Facebook: www.facebook.com/thunderbirdequipment

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutArizona is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.