The Original Roma Restaurant at the corner of 8th Avenue and 16th Street in Greeley. Anne Delaney/Greeley Tribune

New Original Roma owners eye extended hours, no major changes

GREELEY — Randy and Nicole Watkins have frequented the Original Roma pizza restaurant in downtown Greeley for years, but when they do so now, it’s not as customers, but as owners.

The husband-and-wife team, operating through Rolo LLC, purchased the longtime Greeley establishment at 728 16th St., Nov. 29, for $385,000, buying it from Jon and Jamie Shaw.

The Watkins are both certified public accountants, Greeley natives and University of Northern Colorado alumni.

“I actually grew up growing there a lot with my parents, and Randy went there a lot in college,” Nicole Watkins told BizWest Thursday. “It was the place to hang out in college. We’ve been there a couple nights, and it still seems to be a college place, which is awesome.”

She said she and her husband decided to buy the restaurant in part to preserve it as an iconic Greeley destination.

“I think I saw it on Facebook and saw that it was for sale,” she said. “I told Randy, jokingly, “We can’t let Roma’s go away, somebody has to buy it. I guess as time went on, we decided we were that someone.”

The purchase preserves a downtown landmark that was in question when the Shaws put the property on the market in early 2020. The Greeley Tribune reported at the time that Jon Shaw had decided to retire from the restaurant business and focus on his career as a UNC administrator.

Shaw expressed a desire at the time for a new owner to preserve the Original Roma tradition, but its fate was uncertain, until now.

Watkins said ongoing redevelopment in downtown Greeley — from the Maddie apartments to the 55 Plus community to Natural Grocers — “100%” played a role in the purchase.

“There’s so much opportunity there now, with the Maddie, the 55 Plus … and both of us being alumni and wanting to dig deeper into that relationship,” she said.

The Watkins have hired veteran restaurateur Raja Salaymeh as general manager. Salaymeh previously worked as bartender and supervisor at The Summit in Windsor, and managed The Mad Cow in downtown Greeley prior to that.

Salaymeh said the Watkins plan only minor changes to the restaurant, including extending hours. Roma is operating under COVID-shortened hours from 5 to 11 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday.

“Obviously, the goal is to expand to lunches and possibly seven days a week,” he said. “I’m in the process of hiring people and interviewing, so we’re getting there.”

Otherwise, planned changes include bringing spaghetti specials and lasagna back to the menu — cut back during the COVID-19 pandemic — and adding some sandwiches for lunch and tap capacity for additional beers.

“They wanted to keep it very much as it is, which is what’s going to happen,” Salaymeh said. “It’s going to stay as it is now. We’re going to do a few upgrades here and there. We’ll add a few items to the menu, nothing major, but it’s going to have the same ambiance, the same decor, same recipes and everything.

“I don’t want to get away from that aroma, the pizzeria,” he added. “We want to keep that flavor.”

Salaymeh said that although his title is general manager, he serves as co-manager with Justin Garcia, who runs the kitchen. He also credited the restaurant’s staff of nine — not counting him — for sticking with the establishment through the transition.

“They’re just amazing,” Salaymeh said.

For the property sale, Brian Smerud and Erik Caffee of Waypoint Real Estate LLC represented the sellers, and Scott Nitzel of Rouse Realty represented the buyers.

The Original Roma is independent of other Roma restaurants in west Greeley, Evans and Windsor.

© 2021 BizWest Media LLC

GREELEY — Randy and Nicole Watkins have frequented the Original Roma pizza restaurant in downtown Greeley for years, but when they do so now, it’s not as customers, but as owners.

The husband-and-wife team, operating through Rolo LLC, purchased the longtime Greeley establishment at 728 16th St., Nov. 29, for $385,000, buying it from Jon and Jamie Shaw.

The Watkins are both certified public accountants, Greeley natives and University of Northern Colorado alumni.

“I actually grew up growing there a lot with my parents, and Randy went there a lot in college,” Nicole Watkins told BizWest Thursday. “It was the place to hang out in college. We’ve been there a couple nights, and it still seems to be a college place, which is awesome.”

She said she and her husband decided to buy the restaurant in part to preserve it as an iconic Greeley destination.

“I think I saw it on Facebook and saw that it was for sale,” she said. “I told Randy, jokingly, “We can’t let Roma’s go away, somebody has to buy it. I guess as time went on, we decided we were that someone.”

The purchase preserves a downtown landmark that was in question when the Shaws put the property on the market in early 2020. The Greeley Tribune reported at the time that Jon Shaw had decided to retire from the restaurant business and focus on his career as a UNC administrator.

Shaw expressed a desire at the time for a new owner to preserve the Original Roma tradition, but its…