February 20, 2018 – The Hot Tomato Pizzeria in Fruita, Colo., has cultivated an almost cult-like following for its delectable, East Coast-style pizza but owners Jen Zeuner and Anne Keller went through their ups and downs when they first started the business. In their latest venture, they plan on letting other entrepreneurs benefit from their experiences and help support them in starting their own food-related ventures. Here’s the story:
“Tom Griffith wasn’t thinking he would ever be running a coffee shop until a chance encounter at a hardware store with Jen Zeuner and Anne Keller. It is the two Hot Tomato Pizzeria co-owners who joke that they ‘conned’ Griffith into co-owning and operating their most recent Fruita venture after buying and remodeling a house on Peach Street. Equipped with lots of help from Zeuner and Keller, Griffith created a business plan and now runs Bestslope Coffee Co., which has quickly become a mainstay in downtown Fruita.’I wonder how many years I would have gone without forecasting sales,’ Griffith said of the guidance he’s received in the nearly two years since the store opened and what might have happened without help.
Now Zeuner and Keller, along with Griffith, want to help new service-industry businesses thrive in Fruita with the launch of Vine Community of Businesses. The effort has already unofficially begun as one of Griffith’s employees, Hannah Wear, has been baking and selling her products under the Bestslope banner.
The plan will move forward this year as Zeuner and Keller have acquired the lot immediately south of Bestslope, 129 N. Peach St., and razed the old house that sat on the property. The hope is to connect the backyards of both Bestslope and Hot Tomato, 124 N. Mulberry St., and build a structure that could house new businesses looking to get off the ground.
‘The benefit of the partnership is you get help with the operational oversights and structure of a business and policies and procedures and all the minutiae of what makes something successful,’ Keller said.
Vine Community of Businesses will be modeled after Zingerman’s, an established business community in Ann Arbor, Michigan, that started with a deli and later added other related businesses such as a bakery and a cheese shop. The businesses are all operated by one or more partners who share ownership and manage the businesses.”
Photo of Hot Tomato by Tyler Logan.