Cycling Towards Success: The Hot Tomato Café

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When you visit Fruita, Colorado, you’d better bring a bicycle. Located in the Western high-desert region of the state, this small town (with a population just over 10,000) is a Mecca for both competitive bikers and ambitious amateurs. So it’s fitting that the sculpture standing in front of the newly renovated Hot Tomato Café (hottomatocafe.com), just off Main Street, is a repurposed 1924 Schwinn bicycle. Or at least that’s how co-owners Jen Zeuner and Anne Keller see it. This pair of pizziaolas, who met over a shared love of biking five years ago, are living out their entrepreneurial dreams with a restaurant concept that combines their passions: art, cycling and, of course, top-notch pizza. 

“We ran a bike shop together, which was just something to do so we could stay in town and have an income, and enjoy a small-town lifestyle,” says Keller, who, in addition to baking pies, is a professional photographer. However, the pizza business almost seemed to find them, notes Zeuner, who was a competitive mountain and road cyclist for more than a decade before venturing into the restaurant business. “There was a pizzeria right across the street from us that was really, really bad, and customers were always asking where they could find a good place to get a meal. So, when the owner decided to sell, we said to ourselves, ‘Maybe we should do this?’”

So after buying the pizzeria, developing a menu and mastering the hand-tossed basics (Zeuner grew up tossing pies on the East Coast, while Keller is from

Seattle, where dough is often flattened with a rolling pin), the duo have pulled together a restaurant that taps into the cycling tourism market and has also

started to gain the attention of locals—all hungry for a slice after a day on the trails.