Facebook   Twitter   Instagram
Current Issue   Archive   Donate and Support    
Bodega and Marketplace Closing | Community Corner

Bodega and Marketplace Closing | Community Corner


Editor’s Note: Bodega and Marketplace closed at the end of January 2023.

Dear Fresh Thymes Family,

Ending the restaurant chapter of my life and my family’s for the last decade has been the most heartbreaking decision and experience of my life. I was completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support, as well as sadness and loss that we collectively experienced. The positive energy of the community has been so sustaining for me and kept this beautiful business alive since its inception, especially since the pandemic. I could never have imagined the loyalty of the community when writing my business plan, which truly grew alongside Fresh Thymes, organically and naturally, with customers being neighbors, friends and family. A true lifetime dream realized for which I will be forever grateful.

It’s hard when you know something amazing is ending and there is no force nor amount of money that can change the tide. When I decided to keep our Bodega and Marketplace open, it felt very possible. I still crave being a part of the community and I love every aspect of what the Bodega and Marketplace is all about. I love quirky healthy food products, freshly made aioli and yogurt. I love pantry helpers in my fridge when I want to throw together a pot of noodles and a salad. I love sourdough. I love teaching, educating and inspiring. But, in the end as with Fresh Thymes, my love and passion is not enough to allow the Bodega and Marketplace to stay open. As such, with gut wrenching sadness, I will officially close all of the businesses at the end of January and move to the next chapter of my personal and professional devotion to education, local ingredients, authentic health, and damn tasty food.

Please read on if you would like an in depth understanding, hard truth, and what’s on the horizon.

There was certainly a confluence of events and circumstances that built up slowly over the last few years that led to this closure. Actually, by opening the Bodega, I was hoping to out-run the trajectory of many food businesses as a result of how restaurants were managed via public health during and after the pandemic and all that has resulted (cost of food, cost of labor, scant qualified applicants). Many of the changes have seemingly become permanent since the pandemic in such a way as to strongly inhibit small businesses everywhere, especially in Boulder. These real obstacles certainly should be understood by the Boulder community at large along with city officials and the Planning Department specifically. These permanent changes have altered the trajectory of many well laid and well funded plans with no consideration of the people and livelihoods behind the business. Frankly, I find this outrageous. Especially in a community that takes pride in “local small business”. I think the Boulder community values small business, but there is a gulf of disconnect between what the community values and what Boulder government values. There is nothing in the Planning Department or local government that incentivizes small businesses. I waited one year from signing my lease to opening the Bodega. I know of large businesses that received their permit before I did, even though I applied before them. I wondered what the incentive was for the Planning Dept. to prioritize large projects over humble small business? I’m sure we can all draw our own conclusions there.

I was being held up in the permitting process for a simple tenant improvement, resorting to hiring a consultant to help jam through the permitting process, 6 months after I submitted my application. I sent email after email over a year ago to the city and planning dept. telling them in no uncertain terms, their delay would cost the city a flourishing business, as well as all the tangential businesses a restaurant supports from local farmers, florists, and food producers among many others. They were literally threatening the livelihood of a multitude of people, in addition to leaving business owners with undue debt. Due to Covid, you can no longer enter the planning building to speak to a planner. Remember when you could do that? And actually, you cannot call either. And actually you cannot find the contact information for anyone at the planning department to reach out to. If you submit a plan, there is no contact during the process unless you dig really hard and drive just about everyone mad in the process of trying to find a human to talk to. Maybe that has changed, but that was the reality in 2021.

As I was waiting, I was also pledged to hire and purchase equipment. I knew of the delays in shipping, I saw the photos of endless cargo ships bobbing in the ocean, waiting for a port. I also knew how difficult hiring was, especially for kitchen help, of which I would need more. And on it goes spending money to hedge against the future while also waiting for the permit that would allow me to increase my revenue. Did I have enough time? Increasingly, it did not look that way. Wood prices doubled. Wait times for everything doubled. I get that this is the real risk that I took on, but I was assured many times by many parties that the wait time for a simple tenant finish would not be a hindrance.

That proved to be wrong, as I told my landlord in December of 2021 that Fresh Thymes was going to struggle to be viable.

Meanwhile, in my personal life, I was experiencing another evolution in my health, awareness and mission. So many chapters in my healing journey and I started to see how much I immersed myself in my business to exert all my energy toward success and growth, excited to continue to surpass my ambition for fresh churned butter and house cultured coconut milk yogurt. I was feeling very pushed to my max overseeing every detail of creating a new brand, while also trying to build culture with what had over the pandemic become an almost entirely new crew of employees, from the highest levels of Management to the Line and Front of House employees, as well as new employees at the Marketplace and Bodega. Phew….. It took me a long time to realize that I was stressed and unhappy when I was busy convincing myself I would be overjoyed as soon as…… as soon as….. as soon as.

I started to feel so distant from all I was trying to create. It was harder to interact with the community as well as my favorite customers. It was more challenging to force creativity.  I spent all my time teaching how to master a profit and loss statement, how to create spreadsheets and what are the 5 things in your toolbelt to affect food cost and labor cost? Increasingly supporting the mental health of everyone and all their struggles, which had increased as well since the pandemic. I started to feel defeated, until some wise business coach told me I needed a vacation. A long vacation. Alone. Somewhere I could be fed and nourished, instead of nourishing others. Where I could find inspiration and REST. I actually confess to not really understanding the meaning of that word. Like, a nap? Rest.. you mean take naps? Like on Saturdays? I literally pondered the meaning of the word in the context of my professional responsibilities and laughed. Everyone knows I don’t nap. That’s silly. Unless I have a margarita in hand on a beach in some sun soaked land. Then I’ll nap. The beginning of my travel plans started to form.

I did take that advice. I did something I had not done since I was a young college graduate.  I spent a month solo traveling to Ikaria, Greece and northern Spain.  In that time, I was able to see food and health and wellness in a new way, a way that was infinitely more exciting, more fulfilling, and hopefully more viable. I began to see how the many layers of complexity needed to run a restaurant were exhausting and possibly not necessary for me personally to connect with others on our shared passions of food and wellness.

The goal for me was that I would feel refreshed and ready to dive back into the minutiae of the business and all the demands that were mounting while I was away. I would have a fresh perspective and be excited about the challenges that awaited. I would continue to build the business to new heights, etc, etc. Then, I returned. And actually, I knew the moment I came back into the restaurant that I yearned for so very much. I experienced such pride in what I had created. I truly had accomplished so much, especially in light of the fact that nearly everyone told me I would fail in 2012 when I was beginning the process of opening Fresh Thymes. I was really able to take that in and realize how truly proud I was, of my humble little restaurant, of the Bodega, of my Marketplace kitchen and how hard generations of employees over a decade had worked to make it a special place.

I was also painfully aware, Fresh Thymes would need more than I could possibly give it to overcome the obstacles that face many independent restaurants in this time, post-pandemic.

I also knew that my current crop of employees and the majority of my management team were sadly not professionally or personally capable of surmounting the odds. The thing that every single restaurant owner dreads had creeped in. That one bad apple. That one manager with a bad attitude that affects all the others and brings the energy and culture down. I was not willing to let the reputation of Fresh Thymes, that I had painstakingly built over the years, to be less than due to the never ending challenges of hiring and training and instilling culture. I was also sadly aware that I personally was not able to overcome all that alone. It was more than I could handle. I was completely empty of reserves to affect deep change and deep changes in my staffing and management team. To say nothing of the affordability of that. The pay structure for restaurant staff that has emerged since the pandemic is entirely unsustainable for restaurants, no matter what you believe about fair wages and the achievability of living in Boulder. Unless you have deep pockets and more cash reserves to throw at it – of which I had neither.

Rene Redzepi, of the world acclaimed restaurant, Noma, summed it up best when announcing the closure of the world’s best restaurant: “If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s how fragile our dreams can be, how incredibly grueling and difficult this industry can be. It’s unsustainable,” he said. “Financially and emotionally, as an employer and as a human being, it just doesn’t work.”

I know it is time to pivot my professional career to the inspiring ways I had experienced food and wellness in my travels.  I now face the difficult realities of ending multiple beautiful businesses, the consequences of that, and beginning a new path.

I will continue to send email updates of what the realities are both professionally within the industry and personally as I embrace a new path forward. I hope you’ll continue to follow the journey and be a part of a new beginning for myself, authentic health, community, education and of course, always, damn tasty food.

Thank you for your continued support.

In good health,

Leave a Reply