Biz Buzz: High costs spell end for eco-friendly pizza place

Being earth-friendly does not pay when you’re running a restaurant. At least that’s what the owner of San Luis Obispo’s Pizza Fusion thinks.

Brandon Borene said he had no choice but to close Pizza Fusion on Oct. 11, after being open less than a year. His business model was based on serving organic foods and using renewable, reused, biodegradable or recyclable resources.

“Our operating costs were about 30 percent higher than most restaurants,” the 35-year-old from Paso Robles said. “Our concept just didn’t pencil out.”

Borene said he did not feel the economy or the relatively light foot traffic at the Higuera Plaza in south San Luis Obispo (as compared to downtown San Luis Obispo) was to blame.

“We were doing similar sales figures to other restaurants, San Luis Obispo has the right demographics for an organic restaurant and people are willing to drive,” so the restaurant did not depend on pedestrians who frequent downtown San Luis Obispo, Borene said. “We were at the point that more customers would have only meant more costs.”

Borene knew he should be charging more to meet his costs, but he wanted to stay competitive with other pizza restaurants, such as California Pizza Kitchen, he said.

Some of the pizzeria’s expenses started with higher-than-normal building costs. For instance, Borene chose to use recycled denim blue jeans for insulation in his walls, and artwork on the walls that was made out of recycled soda bottles. His operating costs included higher power bills because he wanted to have clean energy, and paid extra for “wind credits” so that they would use more renewable energy; his “to go” containers were biodegradable; and the pizza delivery vehicles were all hybrids, he said.

“We were pioneering something here — we were the most earth-friendly restaurant in the county of San Luis Obispo … but I think we were about five years ahead of our time,” Borene added.

Leasing agent John Rossetti said no one new has signed on to come into the space, although he is already seeing interest.

— Melanie Cleveland

Cambria named one of ‘prettiest’

Cambria has joined the ranks of “America’s Prettiest Towns,” according to ForbesTraveler magazine.

The town was lauded in a profile Oct. 13 on the Web site.

Designer Erin Anderson was part of a panel of those judging the communities. She said Cambria “is truly a small town, complete with general store, antique shopping and shops featuring local artisans.” Anderson also mentioned Moonstone Beach’s attributes.

Some of the other communities on this year’s list were: Monterey and Crescent City; Sedona, Ariz.; Savannah, Ga.; Aspen, Colo.; Santa Fe, N.M.; Deadwood, S.D.; Lake Placid, N.Y.; Dillon, Mont.; Spring City, Utah; and Lanesboro, Minn.

“I’m so glad they chose to include us in the 20 prettiest places because there was some stiff competition,” said Mary Ann Carson, executive director of the Cambria Chamber of Commerce. “Naturally, I agree that Cambria is charming and pretty. I’ve lived all over in some very pretty places, and I chose to live here.”

She said the listing “is good for our little community. We’ve already had feedback about it. We hope the article is well-read and brings people to town.”

— Kathe Tanner