Iconic Truckee restaurant Cottonwood changing owners, not much else | SierraSun.com

Iconic Truckee restaurant Cottonwood changing owners, not much else

Margaret Moran
Longtime Cottonwood co-owner Mike Blide (pictured inside the restaurant on Tuesday) and his wife, Jennifer, are selling the award-winning dining establishment.
Margaret Moran / Sierra Sun |

TRUCKEE, Calif. — Longtime Cottonwood Restaurant and Bar owners Mike and Jennifer Blide are selling their award-winning Hilltop dining establishment that overlooks downtown Truckee.

The new buyers, Kathie Kearley-Green and her husband, Robert Green, expect to keep the business essentially the same, those involved in the deal said this week.

“This place has a legacy,” Mike said during a Tuesday interview inside the restaurant. “It’s a super important business in this town, and to have somebody come in and just bulldoze it was just not ever part of the picture.”

The sale is in escrow, expected to close by the end of January, Blide said. He declined to reveal the sale price when asked.

After escrow closes, with no interruption to service, Kearley-Green and Green, who are part-time Truckee residents, will take over ownership of the business at 10142 Rue Hilltop Road.

“Cottonwood is a treasure in that community and in the greater community,” Kearley-Green said. “… We’re looking forward to continuing the tradition started by Jennifer and Mike.”

The restaurant staff, executive chef, menu, business hours and regular live music performances will remain unchanged, she said.

Mike also will stay on board for three months to help train a yet-to-be hired restaurant manager.

“(Mike) makes you feel like a part of the family,” said Vicki Isacowitz, a regular Cottonwood patron. “… I’m just curious to see what it’s going to be like (under new ownership).”

Kearley-Green said she and her husband plan to make two new hires — a restaurant and officer manager — and would like to expand the building to hold a larger kitchen.

“I’m excited,” said David Smith, Cottonwood’s executive chef of 17 years. “There’s going to be some change, but I think at the same time it’s all going to be good, and (I’m) looking forward to it. … There’s obviously some unknown with it, but my gut instinct is that it’s going to be a good thing.”

Blide said he believes Kearley-Green and Green can take the restaurant to the “next level.”

“I’ve often told people that a dining experience is more than just the food that’s going in your mouth,” Mike said. “It’s the place, and the character of the place and the characters in the place; it’s the history; it’s the view — It’s just everything tied in together. Somehow or another we have been able wrap that package together pretty well.”

According to its website, Cottonwood overlooks downtown Truckee from one of the country’s oldest ski lodges. The hill it sits on was the site of skiing, ski jumping and tobogganing events, served by the nation’s first mechanized lift.

In late 1928, land owner Charles F. McGlashan built a warming hut from railroad ties salvaged from abandoned Martis Valley logging operations. This “pavilion” served members of the Truckee Ski Club, Truckee Outing Club and the Sierra Dog Derby Association.

In 1945, C.F. Tollefson converted the pavilion into a restaurant, according to information provided by Blide.

Over the years, the space Cottonwood occupies housed several restaurants, with Cottonwood being the newest, opening New Year’s Eve 1988 under the leadership of Jennifer Haag (now Jennifer Blide) and Edward Coleman, Mike Blide said.

In September 1996, Mike and Jennifer bought out Coleman and have owned the business since.

“It’s a mixed bag of emotion,” Mike said when asked about selling. “… It’s a lot of work. I may not miss that much. I’m going to miss the employees and the daily interaction with the citizens of Truckee.”

Since 2008, Cottonwood has won Best Overall Restaurant in the Best Of North Tahoe & Truckee contest. Other categories it’s won include Best Dinner, Best Bar and Best Restaurant View.

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