Tammy Carlin and her husband own and manage Pearl Sushi Lounge and Bomber Bar in Arizona. They currently have restaurants in Scottsdale and Chandler and are adding more locations. Tammy sat down with the Iceologist and dished about fresh fish, outrageous cocktails and the value of stress-free, hassle-free ice.
The Iceologist: You have 2 locations and I hear you’re opening 2 more. Tell me about your growth plans.
Tammy: Actually it looks like we’ll have as many as 5 locations soon; Pearl Sushi and Bomber Bars and Pearl Live’s. Pearl Live is more high end with music, catering and, of course, sushi. We have locations in Scottsdale & Phoenix and with Live, we’re taking it up a notch. Right now, we serve happy hour all the time — we’re very non-traditional. Our new locations (under construction currently) will be more upscale, contemporary and slick. We’re also in the process of remodeling our Old Town location.
The Iceologist: What’s the secret of your success?
Tammy: We keep it personal. As owners, we’re hands on and know our staff and customers well. I’m always at one of the sites.
We’re a sushi house and we’re really busy, so we go through product quickly. That’s what you want in a sushi bar — busy. If fish is frozen too long, it actually breaks down the fish. That never happens with our fish because we’re so busy.
We serve a quality product with a good price point. Our customers like that. And we’re able to keep our prices down through our alcohol sales. Old Town is a lively area and we sell a lot of cocktails.
The Iceologist: I’ve looked at your menu on your website and my mouth is watering! What is your inspiration for all the special sushi rolls?
Tammy: We have kids and wanted to create different sushi rolls that aren’t intimidating. Our first restaurant was Blue Wasabi, but we sold that concept. We went edgier. Sex sells and there’s quite a bit of innuendo in the names of our rolls.
The Iceologist: Every city has numerous sushi bars these days. What makes Pearl Sushi stand out?
Tammy: At Pearl Sushi, the customers are not just numbers. We have spaces that really connect with customers and they know we (the owners & staff) really care about them. Anyone can take your money, but we make our restaurants intimate and personal. We serve quality product and unique rolls.
The Iceologist: Your website talks about your signature martinis. What’s the most popular?
Tammy: “Envy” and “Porn Star” are probably our most popular martini’s. We incorporate a lot of Asian products into our cocktails as well as sweeter versions of martinis. “Envy” is a cucumber infused martini and people really love it.
We use sake and Tyku spirits in our drinks. We’re actually the #1 customer for Tyku spirits. They make barley-based spirits that are gluten-free, which is a big trend right now. They have an unfiltered coconut sake and we make pina coladas with it. Delicious and gluten-free!
The Iceologist: You need a lot of ice for those martinis! How much ice do you go through a night?
Tammy: At our Bomber Bar in Old Town, we have entire wells inside and outside. We go through more ice than most restaurants. That location is only 1700 square feet and we go through 900 pounds of ice a day.
The Iceologist: Before Easy Ice, did you own or lease your restaurant ice machines?
Tammy: We really struggled with cheap ice machines before we went with Easy Ice. We owned a piece of crap that we had to repair daily! I can’t tell you how much hassle it was! The delivery ice man was my best friend because he was coming to us practically every day. Our ice machine couldn’t make ice fast enough and I was constantly buying extra ice to be delivered.
Now I don’t have those issues. Easy Ice takes away the headaches of automatic ice makers. Easy Ice is a time saver and I just don’t have to worry anymore about ice.
The Iceologist: How have our ice machine subscriptions simplified your operation?
Tammy: Easy Ice makes a huge difference! When you’re a mom and pop like us, developing new concepts, you don’t want to put out $5-6K for a new commercial ice maker. Our rep, John, is the best! I’m very busy and he’s always on top of it when it comes to the ice machines. John just gets it. He’s always calm and nothing falls through the cracks.
Easy Ice is the first (and only) choice for me for ice machines!