A well-known Jewish-owned Memphis company has expanded its footprint in just a few short years throughout the 901, partnering with a handful of locally owned service companies. Here’s how Scott Gruber of Bridge Capital Thrift and Loan got here.
Back in 2005, Scott decided to leave the corporate mortgage and banking world. He wasn’t ready to retire but wasn’t sure what he wanted to do next. As he mulled over ideas, a close friend would occasionally bring him opportunities and convinced him to take a chance.
“That’s part of what makes this city so great,” Scott said. “You can reinvent yourself here and no one can stop you.”
And that’s just what he did when he became president and CEO of Bridge Capital Thrift and Loan, a private lending company.
When the housing market collapsed in 2008, “we found our way through that lending cycle,” Scott explained. “Banks wouldn’t loan to people, but they lent to us, so we could loan to individuals. Banks also sent us business customers, which allowed them the opportunity to begin building these partnerships.”
Currently Bridge Capital partners with four local service companies: America’s Best Carpet and Tile, Mister Tree, Spark Printing and Bluff City Fencing Company (formerly Dixie Fencing).
“These great companies are under our Bridge Capital umbrella,” Scott said. “We think of each of them like family. And we treat them like family.”
With that family philosophy leading the way, Scott and his team quickly recognized that it’s a rarity for service industry companies to offer benefits. “I took having benefits for granted when I was in the corporate world,” said Scott. “Under our umbrella, all of the partner companies have payroll processing and other management services. Employees have health insurance and a 401k – things many service companies don’t typically offer. Companies and employees appreciate having those benefits. It’s a privilege to have that responsibility and create these opportunities.”
The team at Bridge Capital is also keenly aware of staying in their own lane when it comes to the types of companies they consider partnering with, having learned lessons along the way. “There are certain companies we shouldn’t partner with,” Scott admits. “We’ve tried to partner with some companies where it just didn’t work. Our ‘business in a box’ approach provides technology, legal, accounting services, etc. – but we can’t help someone be better at their trade.
In the beginning Scott admits, “We didn’t start off great, we got great with a grit-and-grind approach. All of our companies are licensed, insured, and bonded, and not ‘scared’ of the work. We do great work, and we always make it right when we don’t. That’s been one of the pillars to make us successful.”
And when Scott says they’ll fix it, he means quite literally in some situations. When the partnership with Mister Tree began, let’s just say some mailboxes got in the way of tree work with their 35-ton crane. “We’d joke that we guaranteed a new mailbox if we happen to knock customers’ current mailboxes down,” Scott said with a laugh. “Yeah, we replaced a few mailboxes… with a better mailbox than we knocked down! We were fixing the city’s curb appeal one block at a time!”
Bridge Capital’s partnerships not only provide services that people need, but they also help enhance the City of Memphis in several ways. “We have more than 100 employees throughout our partner companies, and we pay them well,” Scott said. “Our services help make neighborhoods better, and we offer financing for certain services too – it’s important to make things affordable where we can. By creating jobs, improving communities, and offering insurance and other benefits, we’re doing our part to improve Memphis.”
It’s clear that Scott takes its partnerships seriously, with their core value of treating every company and employee like a partner, promoting a culture of family and fostering inclusivity. “It’s about helping people, doing the right thing, treating everyone fairly,” he said. “Yes, we need to be competitive but also not take advantage – we provide a service that’s commensurate to the price.”
The relationships created from those values are paying off. In just the few years since Bridge Capital began its partnerships, each umbrella service company has won Memphis Most awards in their respective categories – pretty remarkable in such a short amount of time.
“We are so happy to service my hometown,” Scott said proudly. “We’re happy to be part of the community we service, and we don’t have plans to go nationwide. Though we are always looking for new local opportunities to bring businesses on board. Service businesses make sense for our business model, and we’re interested in exploring other companies at the right time for the right reasons.
“What make us a great partner is that we want to be a partner, not the owner. The right partner values us as their partner to accentuate their strengths. If they’ve got what it takes to go to the next level, we can give them the support to do that. We don’t want to run their company; we want to help them. What differentiates us, is that we bring white glove service to blue collar services, and we’re a strong community citizen as well.”
Another of Bridge Capital’s core values is giving back, especially to local Jewish organizations. The company has been involved with Camp Good Grief, Temple Israel Brotherhood, Memphis Jewish Home & Rehab, Make-a-Wish, Girls on the Run, Youth Villages, Madonna Learning Center and others. “We have a great work program for older students at Madonna,” Scott noted. “Giving back is a privilege. We’re proud to be a giver.”
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Scott’s tremendous ongoing support of Jewish Scene magazine, and now, The Hebrew Watchman since the paper transitioned from the Goldbergers to owner and publisher Susan Nieman. “We’ve been so fortunate and grateful for Scott’s support of both publications,” Susan remarked.
Scott says he’s asked all the time if he’s going to sell his company. “Never say never,” he said, “but it’s not for sale.” Besides the fact that he loves the work, his son, Spencer, recently moved back to Memphis and works at Bridge Capital.
“Working with Spencer every day is fun. Seeing him with acumen and aspiration is great,” boasts the proud dad. “Our work is fun. It truly is a privilege to get to do what I do.”