Jackson restaurateur Joe Rice has closed his Pizza Artisan and sold the bottom floor of the 690 building on West Broadway that housed it.

Rice, owner of the Blue Collar Restaurant Group, said the 35 employees of Pizza Artisan have already found places in his other restaurants.

“I met with a buyer who wanted the space, and he was willing to buy me out of the restaurant business,” Rice said Tuesday. “Since I’m expanding now to Bozeman, it made sense.”

Rice said his interest in Montana, where he has opened a sibling of his Sidewinders American Grill, is driven because “there’s not a lot of room for restaurant expansion in Jackson anymore.”

The 5,500-square-foot bottom floor also includes the office of Meridian Trust, a credit union, which is moving to a new home down the road next year. Though 690 “was not a great restaurant building,” Rice said Pizza Artisan “did fine” in the space.

“I’m already hearing about it from people, about closing it,” he said Monday.

Rice and partner Marc Hirschfield, who for years ran Betty Rock Cafe on Pearl Avenue, bought the 690 building in April. The building totals about 15,500 square feet, according to county building records. It sits on a 0.75-acre lot next to Motel 6, and has 38 off-street parking spaces. Upstairs tenants include a suite of office spaces that house First Western Trust and the Trust for Public Lands-Wyoming. Rice and Hirschfield continue to own the upstairs.

The Teton County assessor put the 2017 value of the property at $2.98 million.

Though Rice wouldn’t name the new owner of the downstairs, he said he expects it will all become a single office space.

Rice and Hirschfield bought the building from Emily Knobloch, the widow of Carl Knobloch Jr., who died in November 2016. Knobloch built the structure in 2010 and ran another Italian restaurant there before Rice began working with him.

Knobloch, an Atlanta resident with a home in Jackson Hole, was a Yale graduate who worked in investment banking and real estate. He was active in a variety of causes, including conservation work in Wyoming.

Rice said any cash he realizes and time he saves in the sale can support his efforts to build employee housing in Jackson. With John Shelton he has proposed a 90-unit apartment project at 550 W. Broadway, the site of the long-gone Sagebrush Motel, just south of the old Albertsons site.

Rice entered the restaurant business when he bought Merry Piglets Mexican Grill in the 1990s. Besides that and Sidewinders, he operates Bubba’s Bar-B-Que, Noodle Kitchen and Liberty Burger.

Contact Mark Huffman at 732-5907 or mark@jhnewsandguide.com.

Mark Huffman edits copy and occasionally writes some, too. He's been a journalist since newspapers had typewriters and darkrooms.

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