Fruita pizzeria wins statewide award

The Hot Tomato Cafe & Pizzeria in Fruita has won an annual award recognizing achievements in lifestyle industries in Colorado.

A popular eatery not only for visiting mountain bikers and other outdoor adventurers but also a diverse local clientele, the Hot Tomato won the 2018 Wright Award.

Powderhorn Mountain Resort on the Grand Mesa east of Grand Junction also was among 12 finalists in the latest awards program conducted by Something Independent. The Denver-based coalition promotes entrepreneurism through a variety of programs. Since its inception in 2010, the Wright Awards program has recognized companies from across Colorado. Bonsai Design and Vintage Overland in Grand Junction were among the finalists in 2017.

Jen Zuener and Anne Keller opened the Hot Tomato in 2005. The two worked together in a bike shop in Fruita, but opened the pizzeria to realize their aspirations for running their own business. Zeuner raced professionally in national and international mountain biking circuits. Keller’s photographs of mountain biking have appeared in numerous magazines.

Zeuner said they knew there was demand for a restaurant because of the inquiries they fielded from visiting cyclists at the bike shop.

Zeuner attributed the success of the venture over the years to combination of the East Coast-style pizzas and other fare made fresh from scratch and personalized service that respects customers and meets their expectations for comfort.

Zeuner and Keller also were honored in 2015 as Entrepreneurs of the Year, an annual award presented as part of Entrepreneurship Day at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction.

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