Chefs' Surprise? Sell Convivo

In what has to be one of the most fiercely guarded transactions of the year in Valley restaurant circles, Convivo has been sold to former Different Pointe of View chef Jeffrey Beeson.

The sale is noteworthy on its own -- former owners Mark and Pat Bloom made the tiny, New American-themed eatery a monumental success in just a few short years. It's consistently among the Valley's top-rated restaurants.

Rumors of the sale, which have been circulating for the last month, especially among top Valley chefs, make it more interesting. The Blooms and Beeson denied the restaurant was on the block right up to the end.

"I don't know where it's coming from," Pat Bloom told me in early October. "But isn't there a better rumor? Couldn't I be having an affair, or something?"

With all the pseudo secrecy, the Blooms are either marketing geniuses in keeping the Convivo name hot, or wise to the fickle ways of the dining public. Trendy customers don't want to spend their money at a fashionable place sporting a giant "For Sale" sign in the window.

Brian Harron, associate broker with The Restaurant Brokers, the Valley's largest agency for restaurant sales, and agent for Convivo, noted that news of a pending sale for a highly visible restaurant also can scare off staff and vendors worried about financial stability. In celebrity sales such as this, Harron meticulously screens any potential buyers, requiring them to sign confidentiality documents. It's difficult to keep buzz to a minimum, he says, when something as innocent as a visit to a bank to establish new financing can start mouths chattering.

In the Blooms' case, the finances actually were too good to keep them on. After 20 years in the business, the time finally was right for the couple to take their money and run. They'll likely leave the Valley to retire, says Pat.

Such hush-hush sales are a real challenge, admits Harron. It's common for the brokerage to receive calls from folks pretending to be buyers just to keep on top of the competition. In this case, he was led to Beeson by client and confidant Medizona chef Lenard Rubin.

What will a new chef at Convivo mean to the dining public? Not much, actually, as it's unlikely that Beeson will make too many changes to the already very successful operation. His style complements Convivo's concept perfectly, given his love of homegrown produce and creative, local flavors.

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Carey Sweet
Contact: Carey Sweet