Ross Myers has a unique nickname for his wife – “atmosphere control.” It’s a name he saves for Jan Myers when they’re on their feet running Tootsies in Thayne.
When she’s not charming longtime customers, she’s picking up folks’ babies and saying, ”You eat your dinner, Mom.” Then she’ll wander the dining room cooing with the infant and chatting it up with other customers.
“At first [the parents] are shocked, but then they’re grateful so they can eat,” Ross told SVI Media, chuckling.
When Ross and Jan Myers opened their popular pasta and pizza place near the old Thayne Cheese Factory, this is what they had in mind – an atmosphere of friends and family.
SVI Media spoke recently with Ross for a highlight on a business with the Star Valley Chamber of Commerce. For 15 years now the Myers have been running what he calls “that little beast, my little runaway freight train in the summer.”
That freight train – as he calls it—actually got its start in the early 2000s on Main Street under two sets of previous owners, the latter who put it up for sale in 2005. At the time, regular customers on Main Street were the Myers, who owned what Ross called a “paint and chink” cabin business.
“We got tired of making a living on scaffolds and ladders,” Ross recalled, so they bought Tootsies and two years later moved it to its current location where summer nights you see cars rimming the building and people waiting their turn or picking up take-out.
“We have to guard our recipes,” Ross told SVI. “We get people trying to bribe us for recipes all the time. We don’t share our recipes.”
What the Myers do share, however, is not only their time and good eats, but also their hearts. For them, it’s all about “the relationship with the community.”
One family, Ross related, became two-generation regulars. “We watched them come in on their first date, we watched them get married, then pregnant with their first kid, and now their kid is old enough to work for me.”
Then there are the kindergarten field trips when a busload of children unloads. The school activity, meant to teach young people how a business is run, sees Tootsies become full of kindergarteners split into small groups under the Myers’ tutelage.
“Now we have a couple of them working for me,” Ross added, laughing.
For some kids over the years, the Myers and Tootsies have meant more than just pasta. It’s a family matter. The Myers say they have two daughters and a son: Ammon, 31; Danielle, 27; and Ivy, 25; and five grandchildren.
One of their children was actually a worker over whom they assumed guardianship and is forever under their wings.
And it’s for these reasons that a recent family decision was “such an emotional decision.” Tootsies is for sale. After 15 years of being on his legs in the kitchen, Ross said, “We’ve got to move on.”
He told SVI Media their hope is to find “the perfect dedicated couple to love the business and community and keep it going.”
He emphasized he’ll hold the hand of whoever purchases Tootsies to give them a leg up.
And he lauded the support of the Star Valley Chamber of Commerce over the years. “The chamber is very focused on caring for its local businesses. Any mom and pop is a fragile business. Everything they do to promote local business is appreciated by each and every [chamber member].”
Looking back, Ross said, ironically, that 2020 will be his most memorable. When COVID-19 was adversely affecting so many businesses, Ross feared the worst. But the community stepped it up. The Myers put picnic tables on the grass – and take-out orders flew out the window.
In fact, it got so busy Ross had to tell some callers it’d be a two-and-a-half-hour wait. Ross speculated that for many stopping at a pasta place on Highway 89 in Thayne brought a sense that in a world gone crazy some things don’t change.
“The whole last year was very rewarding, with people enjoying this sense of normalcy.”