Urban Fresh Spread (Photo Credit: Michael Moriarty)
Tucson’s only totally vegan restaurant will go out on a high note at the end of March. Urban Fresh will close its doors after two and half years of serving downtown Tucson fresh lunches made with locally sourced ingredients. The restaurant offered a wide variety of salads, smoothies, juice remedies, and wraps that are free of any animal products and limit the use of oils. Kathy Iannacone, 62 years young, has decided to refocus her efforts to educate foodies on the benefits of a plant based diet.
A lot has changed for Iannacone and the downtown scene. Her 40-year-old daughter and business partner, Krista Miller, is relocating to San Diego with her husband. “She has never been able to be a stay at home mom, so she’s looking forward to that,” Iannacone said, outside of her restaurant on the corner of East Pennington Street and North Scott Avenue.
“I think that letting this space go is really a good thing because it brings Kathy back to what she really intended to use (Urban Fresh) for,” said Iannacone’s business and cooking partner, Sarah Hart.
Hart, 27, moved to Tucson after selling her raw food business in Hawaii. “It gives us all a little more time for what we’re most passionate about: teaching people how to make really healthy food,” Hart said. “We have been really fortunate because I can honestly say I loved so many people that have been coming here and are excited to be eating this way,” Iannacone said.
Iannacone has been in the restaurant business for 38 years. She has worked for a number of downtown eateries: Pizzeria Wine Bar, Old Pueblo eatery, Café Renaissance Downtown Pizzeria, Old Pueblo Breakfast Club and Grill, and many more.
Hart has been a vegan chef for seven years and sells her raw, vegan, gluten-free, exclusively organic and GMO-free products at the Food Co-op Conspiracy and her website.
“I believe that it was an accumulation of things that happened,” Iannacone said. “When you’re just open Monday through Friday, it’s hard to sustain your overhead for a business.” Iannacone noticed the foot traffic started picking up when the street car debuted, but she said she thinks it was more beneficial for the night life. “I wasn’t willing to work nights and weekends because my main focus of this business was to educate.” Iannacone said, adding that her business hours didn’t coincide with the vegan clientele.
Iannacone and Hart will continue to teach classes for all ages. “I want to educate the young people on being a vegan,” she said. “And, to learn how to sustain from animal products of any kind for the environment, animals, health, and the planet.”
“So many people in the beginning were like, ‘Oh no! What do you mean wellness wraps?’, and it scared them because they thought that if it didn’t have chicken or beef they weren’t going to like it,” Iannacone said.