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Franklin Pizza & Pasta to become Tomato Jake's by August

After spending 18 years at 163 E. Franklin St. as a Chapel Hill staple, Franklin Street Pizza & Pasta will soon become Tomato Jake’s Pizzeria.

Franklin Street Pizza & Pasta owner Craig Samuels sold his store to Glen Gordon and Christopher Mann, who said they took over the store on Monday.

Gordon and Mann also own Tomato Jake’s near the Streets at Southpoint mall in Durham and plan to convert the restaurant into another Tomato Jake’s.

Gordon said they have been looking for a location on Franklin Street for a while.

“We’ve been looking at and had a little bit of an eye on Franklin Street,” he said.

And Samuels said he agreed to sell because although owning the restaurant has been an exciting experience, he is ready to cut his workload down.

Samuels also owns Village Pizza & Pasta off U.S. 15-501 in Chapel Hill.

“I’ve just been here for 18-and-a-half years and it just felt like I need a break,” Samuels said.

Gordon said they hope to complete renovations by August.

“We definitely want to do the whole conversion by the time the students return in August,” Gordon said.

He said since Franklin Street Pizza & Pasta was already a pizza restaurant, most of their work will be cosmetic.

He estimated renovations — including repainting and decor changes — will cost about $20,000.

He said they will also put up signs and televisions to make students feel comfortable and might add a UNC-themed wall.

“It’s going to look like our store at the mall with a little more of a Carolina feel,” Gordon said.

Despite the work ahead, Gordon said the restaurant will remain open throughout the summer and most of the work will be completed at night.

Freshman Hope Thomson said she has visited Tomato Jake’s in Durham. “It is just very fun and playful,” she said.

She said the restaurant holds trivia nights on Wednesdays and gives customers playing cards, which it then uses to call orders — and she likes both features.

But many students and local residents have expressed sadness about the change.

“That’s my favorite place to get pizza,” said junior Nicole Lehman. “It had a very homey, unique and individual feel.”

She said even though the restaurant will still serve pizza, she is worried about it losing the individuality she enjoys.

Franklin Street is already home to several other pizza restaurants — including Artisan Pizza Kitchen, Pepper’s Pizza and I Love New York Pizza.

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But because Franklin Street Pizza & Pasta survived for 18 years despite competition, Gordon said he isn’t worried.

“There are six pizza places on Franklin Street and there is enough business for all of us,” Gordon said. “I really believe that our funky vibe and what we look like will really be embraced.”

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