Restaurateur Cooks Up Entrepreneurial Success Recipe


    MUSKEGON — Offer the best possible product, with the best possible service, and make sure you thank your employees each day.

    These are the key ingredients in Hoby Thrasher’s recipe for success. They are also the traits that enabled Thrasher to open and successfully operate six restaurants in the Muskegon area over the years.

    Recognizing that success, the Muskegon Area Chamber of Commerce named Thrasher, owner and operator of Topo’s Italian Pizza Tavern, the recipient of its 2001 Entrepreneur of the Year.

    “I just believe those are the ingredients,” Thrasher said as he accepted the award and shared his “secrets” to success.

    He called the award an “incredible gift and an incredible surprise.”

    Topo’s is the sixth in a string of restaurants Thrasher has owned since going into the business in 1976, when he bought a small restaurant on Apple Avenue, Die Vittle Haus, which he turned into the Someplace Else pizzeria. He eventually sold each of his past five restaurants to partners and employees that he hired and trained.

    “He has helped five owners realize their personal dreams of security and success,” Bob Scolnik of Mona Lake Investment Co. said as he announced the award. “Perhaps Hoby’s greatest talent, besides his ability to create new businesses, is his sense for finding quality, ambitious people with a lot of integrity.”

    The recognition of Thrasher also stems from his involvement in the community and support for his employees. Thrasher provides employees help with college tuition and books, and has been a “Big Brother” through his involvement in the mentorship program for the past five years, Scolnik said.

    Over the years, Thrasher has trained and hired hundreds of special needs children, Scolnik said.

    That kind of commitment to the community is the hallmark of good entrepreneurship, said Dick DeVos, president of Alticor Inc., the parent company of Amway.

    Entrepreneurs “deserve to be celebrated because of what they do,” DeVos said during his keynote address during the chamber’s Entrepreneur of the Year luncheon. “They truly desire to serve others with dignity.”

    “Entrepreneurship, in my opinion, is one of the great opportunities for building a community,” DeVos said. “It’s bigger than any of us as individuals.”

    The past winners of the Muskegon Area Chamber of Commerce’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award:

    2000: John Darien, John Darien Homes Inc.

    1999: Ed DeJonge, Hooker/DeJonge Architects Engineers

    1998: Larry Larsen, Daniels Office Plus

    1997: Ed Babbitt, Babbitt’s Sports Center

    1996: Tony Lisman, The Muskegon Fury

    1995: William Ashley, Ashley Leasing Company

    1994: Robert Carter Jr., R.J. Woodworking Inc.

    1993: Don and Judy Hegedus, Tridonn Construction Co.

    1992: Curtis Chambers, Pliant Plastics Corp.

    1991: Jeffrey Kerr, Horizon Group

    1990: Bob Scolnik, Muskegon Brake & Distribution

    1989: Dave and William Mills, Mills Construction

    1988: Joey Girardin, Girardin Sportswear

    1987: Kenneth Almond, Almond Enterprises

    1986: Louis Eklund Jr., Fleet Engineers

    1985: John Workman, Mark Fazakerley, Wayne Jarvis; Eagle Alloy

    1984: Patricia Bard and Linda Talkington., House of Travel

    1983: Roger Jourden, Michigan’s Adventure Amusement Park

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