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RedBrick Pizza in danger of closing its doors

Leigh Black Irvin
lirvin@daily-times.com

FARMINGTON — New restaurants seem to be popping up in the area regularly, but not all eateries — even chains — are doing well as the local economy struggles.

Kurt Christian pulls a pizza out of the oven on Friday at the RedBrick Pizza Kitchen Cafe in Farmington.

The owners of the RedBrick Pizza Kitchen Cafe, located at 5150 E. Main St., say they may close the restaurant if business doesn’t pick up soon.

The local franchise of the Dallas-based chain was bought by Matthew Brandt in 2009. Brandt sold it to his then-manager in 2014, but after he left the restaurant, Brandt took the business back and re-opened it in early 2016.

“The landlord talked me into taking it back, so I did,” said Brandt, who now runs the restaurant with his girlfriend, Morgan Mahan.

After taking back the business, Brandt and Mahan had to repair broken equipment and clean the restaurant thoroughly to get it back up to par. Since that time, the couple says, there has been a steady decline in business.

Brandt said his receipts plummeted after new, larger chains like Five Guys Burgers and Chik-fil-A opened.

Kurt Christian slices a pizza on Friday at the RedBrick Pizza Kitchen Cafe in Farmington.

“I’ve never seen it like this. It’s terrible,” he said, adding that the catering orders the restaurant used to receive have dropped off. As a result, Brandt said, the restaurant has not been able to help with many of the community charity projects it used to be involved in.

Mahan believes the main factor in the pizzeria's declining traffic is the downturn in the oil and gas industry.

“Everyone’s leaving the oilfield, and we don’t have four other stores to pick up the slack — we only have this,” she said.

The monthly rent for the property is $5,800, and both Brandt and Mahan expressed frustration that they have not been able to convince their Denver-based landlord to lower the rent so they can stay in business, despite sending him data proving that sales are slow. They said they are now four months behind on their rent.

RedBrick employees have tried to help keep the restaurant open by setting up an online GoFundMe account. But Mahan said no donations have been made to the account. Brandt has also tried going door to door handing out fliers and coupons to encourage people to visit the restaurant.

Owner Matthew Brandt talks with a customer on Friday at the RedBrick Pizza Kitchen Cafe in Farmington.

Mahan expressed frustration that she and Brandt have not gotten a lot of support from their corporate office. A digital cash register system set up while the interim owner ran the restaurant wouldn’t allow employees to enter the correct items, and the credit card reader often malfunctioned, she said.

“We chased a lot of customers away because the system wouldn’t let us ring up special deals advertised by corporate,” Mahan said.

In order to cut labor costs, Brandt and Mahan have been working extra shifts, although they still retain three full-time and 10 part-time employees. They also have been able to cut utility costs by turning off the oven during the day.

The couple say they worry most about their employees, who depend on their jobs to pay their bills. They have given the employees a heads-up of a possible closing.

“We don’t want to do what others have done and have them walk in and not get a paycheck,” Mahan said.

Customers waits on their meals on Friday at the RedBrick Pizza Kitchen Cafe in Farmington.

The couple say they’re uncertain about what will happen and are hoping business will pick up.

“It’s (hard) when you put a lot of hard work into something and you have no control over what happens,” Brandt said.

Leigh Black Irvin is the business editor for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4621.