By Rachael Rees
After ending operations Tuesday, Stewart Fritchman and a half dozen employees at the Sunriver Bellatazza expect to spend today wiping down counters, cleaning out espresso machines and taking down farewell posters.
“It’s like losing a family member,” said Fritchman, who has operated a coffee shop in Sunriver for nearly two decades. “It is absolutely emotionally devastating to pour your heart and soul into raising this thing up that touches community members and business people and, you know, fuels families — to have it taken away.”
In its place at 57257 Beaver Drive, a Starbucks that is fully owned and operated by Sunriver Resort is expected to open this winter.
“We’ve enjoyed a great working relationship with Bellatazza over the years, and we appreciate the job they did for us managing the coffee shop,” Tom O’Shea, managing director of Sunriver Resort wrote in an email.
The resort decided to switch coffee suppliers before its agreement ended with Bellatazza, O’Shea wrote, and after some deliberation, the resort chose Starbucks, a well-known brand.
For Fritchman, it’s the end of serving coffee in Sunriver. He began in 1996 when he took over Sunriver Coffee, his first coffee shop in Central Oregon. He became Sunriver Resort’s exclusive wholesale provider a couple of years later. In 2002, he rebranded the store as Bellatazza, and in 2006 he licensed the brand in a five-year contract to Sunriver Resort. He continued to manage operations at the store, which is on property owned by Sunriver Resort Limited Partnership. Fritchman still owns and operates Bellatazza on NW Wall Street in Bend.
“The tradition of Sunriver is the local, independent businesses. People love them. That’s why people escape the hustle and bustle of West Coast cities — to come and savor something authentic,” Fritchman said.
Pam Yocum, who’s owned a second home in Sunriver for 17 years, said she’s upset that Bellatazza is being replaced by Starbucks.
“We were so happy when Bellatazza opened in its current location, serving great coffee in a pleasant atmosphere by friendly, competent baristas who would greet us by name,” she wrote in an email.
Yocum said she has no plans of going to the new Starbucks. Instead, she said, she plans to go to Brewed Awakenings, the coffee shop Sunriver residents Todd and Sandra Gunderson expect to open this month across Beaver Drive in The Village at Sunriver.
“Of course, when we go to Bend, we will go to Bellatazza’s location there, but it just won’t be the same not having them in Sunriver where we can get great coffee any time,” Yocum wrote. “In fact, I didn’t bother to make coffee much at the house here as it was so convenient to swing by Bellatazza on our daily outings. They will be greatly missed.”