The Sky Rider Coffee Shop staff knows a thing or two about eggs.
On weekdays the kitchen goes through about 450 eggs a day.
“That’s a lot of eggs,” said Calley Carpenter, the granddaughter of owner Barbara Abrams.
It’s all in a day’s work for the cooks and servers at the Sky Rider Coffee Shop, located at the Marana Regional Airport. The breakfast and lunch diner has survived staffing and supply chain issues, and the pandemic shutdown.
Although she owns the place, Barbara, 96, doesn’t see a need to work at the restaurant these days. Her daughter, Jenny Abrams-Wilson is the interim manager. Her father, Harold “Bud” Abrams, died in 2005. He’s in the Arizona Hall of Fame at the Pima Air Museum and was one of the destination’s founders.
This year marks 40 years in business. It was founded because a smart person saw a need; it started with a hungry pilot.
“My dad, he was a pilot,” Jenny said. “He was working on refurbishing an airplane out here, and there was nowhere to eat, so (Barbara) got tired of bringing food out so she said, ‘Let’s build a restaurant on the airport.’ There was nothing out here but farm fields then.”
Over the years, Jenny said, they have expanded the seating area, but now the kitchen space is tapped out. Still, that’s a problem for another day.
The American comfort food menu has evolved over the years. The current incarnation has been around for five years, so the management team is making a few changes, not all of them happy ones, Jenny said.
For one thing, cost of everything, especially eggs, has gone up, so the menu pricing is increased. It’s not like they want to raise prices, but, Jenny said, at the old prices there is no profit.
“The cost of food has gone sky high,” she said. “It’s been years and years since we changed pricing. It’s almost like we’re forced to; we don’t have a choice.”
“I think we’re one of the only restaurants that has maintained pricing, especially in this massive boom right now, but we are getting to the point where that’s not feasible anymore,” Calley added. “We’ve held out for as long as we can, taking some losses along the way, seeing if it’s going to recoup.”
“When we buy a flat of eggs there’s 600 or 700 eggs in it,” Jenny said. “It’s hundreds of dollars now, hundreds.”
Over the years new menu items, suggested by the managers, have been added and removed. Because they have customers who have been coming for decades, staff takes their suggestions, too. Items that were not successful are dropped.
“We’ve found that out here egg whites don’t sell very well,” Jenny said with a laugh. “People want those hearty eggs.”
There are also specials, just to mix things up for many daily diners.
“We have a lot of farmers in this area who have been coming for years and years and years,” Jenny said. “All these (servers) know them.”
They even have staff who have been there for decades.
“One of our waitresses, this is her 21st year here, so she knows everybody who comes in,” she said. “Her name is Cindy Mangano. I don’t know many places where you can say the waitress has been there that long.”
“That’s probably the great thing about Sky Rider,” Calley added. “With the (Abrams) family owning several companies in Tucson, it’s hard for us to be here every day. Having a staff like that is so helpful. Our customers love them.”
Although the restaurant opened in 1983, the Abrams family took over the operation of the airport in 1989. They now take in hangar revenues and run the fixed-base operation, which sells the fuel, does the avionics and airplane repairs. They built and own many of the buildings on site but the land is leased from the town of Marana. They also own Abrams Airborne Manufacturing, a precision sheet metal manufacturing company.
Now the family is looking to the future, hoping to become more involved in the community, but they don’t know exactly what that will look like just right now.
“Going forward, that’s something we would like to do,” Calley said. “Utilize this space as a platform to help build more of those community events.”
They’ve discussed hosting networking events, farmers markets or club meetings. Mainly, the family is grateful for the town of Marana and the people and community who support them and have supported them. Jenny said she is most proud of the fact that her parents started the restaurant 40 years ago and it’s still a going concern.
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