Name: Christi Rivera
Business: Honeymoon Café
What she said then:
In March 2009, The Tribune announced the opening of Honeymoon Café in the San Luis Obispo County Government Center.
It was a partnership between Christi Rivera, owner of the original Honeymoon location in Pismo Beach, and Russ Thomas, co-owner of Two Cooks Catering.
“The county had to approve our menu in terms of price, size, grab-and-go items, etc.,” Rivera said in a later Ticket review.
Aimed at the downtown work force, the second café continued the breakfast and lunch model. Thomas also used the space for catering on nights and weekends.
What they say now:
The San Luis café — the fourth business in that space since the center opened in 2005 — closed in May.
“We thought that would be the perfect place,” Rivera said. “Higuera is a hard street if you’re not on the right side or in the right place.”
One of the prime motivations was to give Thomas a kitchen for catering, she said, describing the café business as “a side venue, an added bonus.”
With its business increasing, Two Cooks outgrew the kitchen, said Heather Thomas, co-owner and Russ Thomas’ wife. They bought Rivera’s half of the assets and moved them to a commercial kitchen that Two Cooks will share with Porter’s Gourmet on the Go.
Rivera now is upgrading the original Honeymoon Café. Sales there are up 10 percent for the first half of 2010 from the same period last year.
She attributes part of that success to the neighborhood’s synergy. With other restaurants, wine bars, a yoga studio and salon nearby, her café’s “funky vibe” fits.
“Basically they’re trying to make Price Street restaurant row,” Rivera said. “Weekends we have a line out the door.”
To keep up with that demand, she’ll add booths and replace her electrical hot plates with a gas stove. Later, she’s considering adding dinner hours.
“In SLO, we had a real kitchen,” she said. “I loved cooking there.”
But customer surveys in that location showed a lack of ambiance on the patio was a problem. The county erected canvas to shield the view of trash cans, but that didn’t solve all her concerns.
Lack of parking and limited street visibility also made it hard to attract diners from outside the building.
Emphasizing seasonal and organic cuisine, Rivera likes to switch up dishes frequently. Needing county staff’s approval for menu and pricing changes was a requirement she found cumbersome.
As the landlord, the county wants its employees to be able to visit a tenant’s restaurant several times a week, said Linda Van Fleet, associate real property agent. Staff hopes to attract a smaller operation there to sell sandwiches, deli foods and contain a small market.
“We are working with one party to potentially move there,” Van Fleet added. “The Honeymoon Café’s food was fantastic. We were very sad to see them go.”
— Raven J. Railey