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winter 2023

Making Their Mark

Beans And Beats—The Couple Creating A Multicultural Community At Thumbody
Written by: Andy Butcher

The COVID-19 lockdown gave Marcus Anderson and his wife, Audrey, a greater appreciation for the role the hospitality industry plays in providing spaces for people to come together. So they decided to blend their talents and different backgrounds to launch Thumbody, a business dedicated to “starting conversations about culture through food and drink.”

The combined coffee shop and used-and-new record store in Paramus, New Jersey, which opened at the end of 2021, is “a hidden gem,” according to one online reviewer who praised its “great vibes, great selection, and great staff.” The name and thumbprint logo come from a popular 70s marketing design and were chosen for their “fun and quirkiness,” explains Audrey.

Thumbody’s unique mix draws from her Filipino heritage—one of the drinks on offer is The Hulk, a bright purple and green mix of matcha and ube, a yam from the Philippines—and his love of music, from city pop to funk and hip-hop. The 2,100-square-foot space in a large business building is open six days a week, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and has become a popular place for local students to hang out. One regular “guest,” as the Andersons refer to their customers, is a Muslim whom Marcus allows to use the separate music room for her prayer times.

We’re allowing people to create a space and live out their best and wildest dreams.

MARCUS ANDERSON

“We wanted to create a space that allows people of different walks of life to come in and enjoy what they enjoy or enjoy what they’re curious about,” says Marcus, who grew up in Paterson, New Jersey. “Come in, ask questions, try something different… we’re allowing people to create a space and live out their best and wildest dreams.”

In addition to the many informal meetups that occur there, Thumbody also hosts special events, including a bi-weekly chess club. Last year, two DJs were brought in to play music by the late J Dilla (“often deemed as one of the greatest hip-hop producers of all time,” notes Marcus) to mark the release of his classic 2006 Donuts. “I knew a long time ago if I ever wanted to open up a business, in some way, shape, or form we had to celebrate this album anniversary,” Marcus explains.

Earlier this year, the business made use of all the business center’s unused Saturday morning parking spaces to host a Cars & Coffee gathering by the local chapter of the BMW Car Club of America. “It was a huge event for us,” says Audrey.

Thumbody’s homemade menu highlights its distinctive nature. In addition to signature drinks, there’s Thumbody’s Almighty Bean Pie (“A culinary staple of the Nation of Islam and of revolutionary black power”) and Ube Pandesal w/Cream Cheese, a traditional Filipino roll with cream cheese filling. Thumbody swag includes a hoodie and T-shirts, one of them bearing the slogan, “Please don’t say ‘Dammmm…’ when you hear the price.”

Partnership Principles

Opening a new coffee shop at a time when others were shutting down was a risk, Marcus acknowledges. Though they didn’t have a lot of formal business training, they both found skills from their previous jobs to be transferable to what they are doing now. For Audrey, medical billing experience has helped her handle payroll. She is also a big fan of Google. “I use it a lot,” she says. “Whether it’s a simple question like, ‘How much should I budget for payroll based on revenue?’ I Google things like that just to see what people say.”

For Marcus, while the final product at Thumbody is different from his years in video production in the music and sports worlds, “the logical aspect remains the same.” There are early starts, long hours, team management. “You plan for the most ideal day possible and bust your ass until you get what you need, while rolling with all of the punches in between.”

Starting out just the two of them, with some help from Audrey’s brother Teofilo, the pair has since added staff and expanded their store footprint. From their self-taught experience, the Andersons offer five key principles for anyone looking to turn a dream into a reality.

A lot of people go into business… without really digging deep into what it entails.

AUDREY KILLIP-ANDERSON

Purpose.

Everyone needs to earn a living, but there has to be more to life than just making money. “If that’s the motivating factor, then you might as well not do it because you’re not getting it right,” he says. “Opening up a café and record shop, you’re not going to make a lot of money.”

Planning.

Do your due diligence before jumping in. “I think a lot of people go into business or want to start a business without really digging deep into what it entails,” she says, “so sometimes they get discouraged and then they don’t continue with it.”

Passion.

Find something that gets you out of bed enthusiastically—even if it’s earlier than you would naturally choose. “If you’re not passionate, then I don’t know if this thing is going to be something that one would need to go and spend the most of their time doing,” says Marcus.

Persistence. Even the best of goals have times when pursuing them is more about slog than celebration. “Hard work,” he says. “You have to be willing to sacrifice some of the things that you think you love the most and do some of the things that you probably don’t like.”

Put away. You must be prepared to put your money where your heart is, so “save as much as you possibly can and be prepared to use that money in order to fuel and drive your passions,” Marcus advises. Unable to secure business loans, the Andersons used all their savings and credit to get going.

You have to be willing to sacrifice some of the things that you think you love the most.

MARCUS ANDERSON

As partners in life as well as a growing business, the couple aims to keep Sundays free from work stuff (though they may check out a coffee shop when they are out and about, to see if it gives them any ideas). “Just like anything, you have to put the work in,” Audrey says of balancing their dual relationships. “Keeping that line of communication open and learning to compromise because we aren’t always going to agree with every business decision.”

While working together may produce its own pressures, Marcus says it also “brings a different dynamic to the relationship as well.” Seeing Audrey at work gives him even greater appreciation for her. “We wake up together and get to the shop every morning together and lock the shop every day together, so we see our grind,” he says. “I had to take a step back and be like, ‘Look, I couldn’t do this by myself.’ So why not do this thing with the person that I trust the most?”

MARCUS ANDERSON: MY WAYMAKER

Casey Melvin was the first person that I had seen that looked like me, that opened up a business in Paterson, a barber shop. He provided a space for a lot of us young men to come to. He and his counterparts took care of us as if we were their sons. He was a person that I looked up to from afar that showed people that look like us can do this thing too, right? He really made an impact, not only on me, but a lot of people in my neighborhood.

AUDREY KILLIP-ANDERSON: MY WAYMAKERS

Definitely my parents, bringing us here from the Philippines for a better life and more opportunities. They taught the work ethic that is instilled in me: Like, I cannot miss a day of work.