Lisa Hemenway, celebrated Wine Country chef and former owner of the recently closed Fresh restaurant in Skyhawk Village, has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection.
Hemenway had planned to move Fresh to another location, but a lawsuit was filed against her and she was forced into bankruptcy to protect herself, she said. She declined to discuss the nature of the lawsuit.
"This is my fifth restaurant in 33 years, and I've never been down this road before," Hemenway said. "It's a last resort. It's not something I was planning on doing."
In the bankruptcy filing, Hemenway listed liabilities totalling $1.1 million and assets worth $446,525.
The largest unsecured creditors listed include Santa Rosa investors Colene Johnson, who's owed $200,000 and James Berger, who's owed $150,000.
Skyhawk Village Corp., the landlord for Fresh, is listed with a claim of $172,600 for a business expense and lawsuit, but that claim is being disputed, according to the filing.
It's the second time that a business owner has filed bankruptcy after opening in the shopping complex off Highway 12. Mike Runyan, a former Santa Rosa city councilman and owner of Skyhawk Village Market, closed his store and filed for bankruptcy in 2010 after operating other businesses successfully for 50 years.
The location proved challenging because it's difficult for cars to get into the shopping center and the overhead and utility bills were high, Hemenway said.
"I think it stems all the way back to when you put the place in, and the way you get in and out of there, that hinders people from stopping there," Hemenway said. "I think the building costs were astronomical.
"The original plan was for it to go into Railroad Square, and I think I needed that foot traffic," Hemenway continued. "But even so, the neighborhood supported me beautifully."
Hemenway began her culinary career at age 20 when she opened Whole Hearted Baking Co. in Sonoma County.
She went on to own several acclaimed restaurants including Lisa Hemenway's Bistro at Montgomery Village and the Town &amp; Country Shopping Center.
She also has designed kitchens and works as a commercial and residential real estate agent. Hemenway retains her real estate license, but she's not sure what she'll be doing next.
"It's not what I had planned, believe me," Hemenway said. "I worked as hard as I could, I never took a paycheck in three years there. I never took one dime. I did everything I possibly could to keep it afloat, and it was not enough."
You can reach Staff Writer Cathy Bussewitz at 521-5276 or firstname.lastname@example.org.