Keeping business in the family

Jackson Bell

When he was 12, Mark Thomas would clean the kitchen at Tallyrand

restaurant on Sunday mornings. At 16 he started busing tables, and by

18 was working as a cook.


Now 47, Thomas and his sister, Karen Ross, are running the family

business their father founded 44 years ago.

“This is what I’ve done all my life,” he said. “This is what I

know and this is who I am.”


Thomas represents what Burbank Chamber of Commerce Executive

Director Susan Bowers says is a high proportion of family-owned

businesses in Burbank.

“One reason I see this happening is that people who are born in

Burbank tend to stay here,” Bowers said. “And if they go away to

college, they come back home more than [students from other]

communities do. The kids are here to take over.”

But Thomas’ 17-year-old son, Eric, isn’t so sure if he will take


after his father and grandfather.

“It’s definitely not ruled out,” Eric said. “Right now, I’m

focusing on college and we’ll see what happens in the future.”

Mark Thomas encourages his son, who will attend San Diego State

University in the fall, to explore his interest in psychology before

considering the restaurant.

“I [took it over from my father] and it was a lot of hard work,”

Mark Thomas said. “And if I had a choice, I would like something


better for my son.”

Like Thomas, Otto Huber, the founder and 34-year owner of Otto’s

Import Store & Deli, said he never pressured son to take over the

business. But Thomas Huber became the official owner four years ago,

even though his 70-year-old father still runs the store.

“He’s a very smart boy and he made his own choice,” Otto Huber

said. “I didn’t force it because children go their own way.”

Thomas Huber, 36, has worked at the tight-knit family business

since he was a toddler. Although he studied finance and real estate

at Cal State-Northridge and briefly worked in those professions, he

returned to the family business full time after his mother died in


Since then, he has been in charge of such behind-the-scenes tasks

as maintaining the store’s Internet site, marketing and discovering

new items for the store to carry.

For him, the reason for taking over the family business was


“Where else can I spend 40 hours a week with my father?” he said.

“Nowhere. And I’ve been working at the store since I was three years

old, so it’s easy for me.”