An idea popped into Bret daCosta’s mind one night as he threw out leftover spaghetti.
“I was a single dad and all I could afford was spaghetti,” he said. “And we always had all this leftover spaghetti. I told my son, ‘Gee, if we could sell our leftover spaghetti we could make buckets of money.’”
And By The Bucket spaghetti takeout was born.
daCosta opened the eatery at 606 S. Beeline Hwy. in Payson on June 8, 2018. But that location had limited parking. “We had people parking and running across the highway to get spaghetti,” he said.
So he moved the operation across the street to 509 S. Beeline Highway in January 2019.
Business has been great since the day it opened.
“I have low food cost and low overhead, so we’ve always been profitable,” daCosta said. “And business continues to grow. Everybody comes back for more spaghetti and tells their friends about us. We know we will sell out every Friday, Saturday and Sunday.”
Things have gone so well for By The Bucket LLC that daCosta plans to franchise the business soon.
“We’re looking forward to forming our new corporation, By The Bucket Franchising Inc.,” he said. “I can’t legally sell the franchises until (that gets set up). But, in the meantime, I sold four licenses to people who can use my recipes, menus, etc. I’m using that capital and I’ve employed a legal firm out of New York to work on the franchising. I expect to be offering nationwide franchises in about six weeks. I have people interested in opening franchises in Colorado, Louisiana and New Mexico.”
He’s sold licenses to folks in Lakeside, Queen Creek, Gilbert and Ahwatukee. They’re preparing the Lakeside location and it should open soon. daCosta says all four new locations should be open for business within six months.
The business doesn’t require a lot of equipment.
“It’s a very simple model,” daCosta said. “We do everything with a convection steamer. My model does not require a hood.”
daCosta never planned to own a restaurant.
“I never worked in a restaurant other than the time I bused tables for two weeks in college,” he said. “I had to wear a funny shirt and friends made fun of me and I quit.”
Nobody’s making fun of him now.
He’s tried his hand in a variety of businesses over the years.
“By the time I was 11 years old I was fixing bicycles and taking neighbors’ trash cans out to the street and back, raking leaves, etc.,” he said. “I’ve always been an entrepreneur.”
The Arizona native moved to northern California after serving in the Navy. He attended college on the GI Bill and started his own skydiving school in Santa Cruz, Calif. at 20. He later managed a large boat dealership in the Bay Area of California and started his own mortgage company in Saratoga, Calif. He sold that three years later for a substantial profit and moved back to Arizona to Prescott to be near his children. He has five children. A sixth child, a daughter, passed away.
He worked as a finance manager for a car dealership in Prescott for five years before working at Steve Coury’s Used Car Connection in Star Valley for six months. He moved to Pine in 2004.
He got back into the mortgage business with his own mortgage company in Pine, and his wife ran a gift shop next door to it before they divorced.
The 2008 financial collapse forced daCosta to adapt.
“That’s when I retrained myself,” he said. “I invented a way to make barcodes into art and started selling my barcodes all over the world. It was crazy.”
And he trained himself how to build websites and mobile apps and started doing graphic design and built his own marketing company, Meezzly Marketing.
“I did video production and websites,” he said.
Then he joined the sales department at the Roundup and came up with award-winning ads at the Arizona Newspapers Association’s annual Better Newspapers Contest.
He left the newspaper to open By The Bucket. Brandon Broadwater is the general manager. daCosta’s son, Sam, is 13 and has worked in the restaurant since he was 11. “He runs the cash register, takes phone orders and is good at customer service,” he said.
daCosta said he thought he had a good business plan but didn’t dream it would turn out like it has.
“You wouldn’t believe how popular spaghetti in a bucket has become,” daCosta said. “I have a nationwide trademark on the name.
“My signs drive people in and the food brings people back. Sometimes I get five five-star reviews a day. People love it.”
By The Bucket is open from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch and from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. for dinner Monday-Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Call 928-300-5700 to place an order or visit bythebucket.com.
A “Familia Bucket” sells for $12.95 and includes 1.5 pounds of spaghetti, marinara sauce and half a loaf of garlic bread. It feeds five. Meatballs are $1.25 each. The “middle bucket: feeds two and is $8.95 for three-quarters of a pound of spaghetti, marinara sauce and a quarter loaf of garlic bread. Cheesecake is $3 a slice and meatball subs are $7.95.