Tolosa Press founders selling their share, leaving the company

Tolosa Press, which publishes three free community newspapers in San Luis Obispo County, will have two fewer owners after this week.

Mary Gardner, who founded Tolosa Press with her husband, Chris, in 2006 along with community paper The SLO City News, said Wednesday that they are selling their 50 percent share to co-owners Bret and Lani Colhouer effective Dec. 23.

“We started this business seven years ago, and we’ve worked very hard on it,” Mary Gardner said. “It’s been a big part of our lives (but) we decided we’re going to force ourselves to move on.”

The Colhouers also own event management and marketing company Simply Clear Marketing, which produces trade shows throughout California.

Gardner declined to disclose the details of the deal, saying only that it had been in the works for a while. She said the decision to leave was entirely voluntary.

When asked if the newspapers were profitable, Gardner said they were “going strong.’’

The Gardners and Colhouers have served as equal partners in the company since 2007 when they merged Bret Colhouer’s family papers, The Bay News and The Coast News, with Tolosa Press, Gardner said.

She said the three papers will continue to exhibit the same commitment to the community they were founded on, and no major changes are planned for the group in the near future.

“The plan Colhouer is on right now is one of non-change,” Gardner said. “That may change in the future, but right now there are no plans for big change.”

The Colhouers could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The Gardners do not have any immediate plans after they leave the company, Mary Gardner said. Both will most likely continue to pursue careers in newspapers or marketing, she said, as well as advising the Colhouers if needed.

“We’ve got some irons in the fire, but no done deals yet,” she said.

Tolosa Press employs about 20 people, as well as several freelancers and independent contributors. It is based in San Luis Obispo and has an estimated readership of approximately 60,000 in the county, Gardner said.