I didn't think I would be writing this down to post on the internet. I thought instead we would be hanging out on the back patio together with live music, packed in like sardines, raising a glass, sharing stories, eating good food, and appreciating all that you have helped us create! But nope, here we are, in 2021, trying to capture all the things I want to say or think are important to say, and here you all are reading along.
Many of you already know this but the Hot Tomato is under new ownership!!!! Aaron Knapp, who has been working with us for over 6 years now, is the proud new owner of The Hot Tomato. We could not be happier with this decision. To give you a little info on Aaron, he started with us in 2014 and has been pretty much running the Tomato for the past few years and he has been doing an amazing job! I have to add, if we were going to get thrown into a pandemic with someone and try to figure out what we are going to do to keep our business open, we couldn't have had a better person to work through all of this with.
You can stop reading here as you get the gist, but if you are interested in a deeper dive, this was a very intentional plan and it started like this:
In 2015, after we celebrated our ten year anniversary of the Hot Tomato, we wrote a vision for the next 5 years, ending in 2020. Our vision started with this "It is now the summer of 2020 and as we walk around the town of Fruita we cannot believe how things have grown so much and how awesome our town feels! The evening has cooled off, and we watch as locals filter out onto the streets and stroll around to the various great businesses in town. They stop at the Copper Club for a beer, then they continue to the Hot Tomato for a slice, and finish the evening hanging out in 'the backyard space' enjoying a cocktail from our cocktail bar. Tomorrow morning they will wake up and grab a coffee from the roaster, and maybe a baked good as well. There is live music at the Cavalcade later tonight, and the town has turned out for a great evening." It went on to discuss the idea of buying the lot next door and creating a community of businesses, working with managing partners, and exploring the possibilities of employee ownership. It ended with this "At fifteen years in, we have finally achieved the benchmarks we set out to reach! ‘Things got Real’ and we were able to achieve the big goals that we set out to do with our company. We have had thriving, financially sound, and most important, amazingly transformational years with our business, and now Community of Businesses. The Hot Tomato and the Vine have been able to achieve an amazing level of Greatness! As we move forward with our future plans, we know that we can do so with the knowledge that we all have built the foundation for a sustainable, successful, and, long lasting independent business."
The 2020 Vision felt like a pretty lofty goal at the time. In 2018 we began having conversations around partnerships with our leadership team. We told them if anyone was interested that we need to see their 10-year vision of the Hot Tomato under their watch. A few months later Aaron asked to meet with us and he read us "his" vision of The Hot Tomato. It was more inspiring than anything I ever imagined. We were already really committed to the idea of selling internally, and our experience working with Aaron coupled with his vision reaffirmed that we had made the correct decision in our transition plans. At the end of 2019, we started working on all of the things that go with selling your business. We planned to have a giant Celebration/Announcement in person, and then well we all know what happened...
In the meantime of trying to navigate ‘Covid Times,’ we began to work more closely with Aaron on the ownership transition. We made a plan, we met a lot, we talked about our concerns, we celebrated our wins, we saw Aaron getting more confident and the team respecting him more and more. The shift started happening, slowly and naturally. We had meetings with the entire team of Tomatoes. We talked to our customers and friend besties. Some of you reading this may have been our soundboards (thank you for your advice, concerns, and love). Before the end of the year Aaron, Anne, and I hiked out into Flume Canyon with beers and our contract and signed everything on the ‘dotted line’ so to speak.
I'm sure many of you have a ton of questions, concerns, maybe even fears so we'll try to answer some of them here:
Anne and I are not leaving Fruita.
Yes, the Tomato is still owned locally, by a Fruita resident.
We are still going to be closed on Sundays and Mondays, and for several holiday breaks.
We have no desire to open another business at this time.
Aaron has already been running the show for 2 years and has no plans of changing things.
And still, at this time, we cannot give you a time at which our dining room will open.
I do know that The Hot Tomato is still going to do our best at being the best for all of you, every day. We are going to continue as an organization to give you a mind-blowing experience and to be excited when you walk in the door. We are still focused on delicious pizza, exciting beers, and rad merch. Anne and I will be consulting with Aaron for as long as he needs us, or until he gets sick of us. We made some big promises and commitments to each other and I promise all of you that Aaron is going to continue to do the best he can to keep The Hot Tomato a place that you trust, that you want to visit, and that you want to share with all of your peeps.
I am more grateful and proud of this little endeavor than anything I have ever done in my life and I couldn't have done it without this community. We have been through so much with all of you, parties, weddings, anniversaries, bike clinics, funerals, bike rides, movies, hikes, concerts, and...You have allowed us into your hearts and we have allowed you into our home. As I re-read this I realized that I thought I would have a million regrets about selling but mainly I'm just happy that one of our co-workers believed in this place so much that he wanted to take it over and as we wrote back in 2015 "As we move forward with our future plans, we know that we can do so with the knowledge that we all have built the foundation for a sustainable, successful and long-lasting independent business."
The only regret we will probably have is not seeing all of you as often.
Ride Bikes, Eat Pizza!
Jen, Anne, and Aaron
If you have any concerns, questions or just want to reach out you can reach us here: