For the next week or so the walls of Tomato Head Market Square aren’t just walls – they’re also not so secret passageways to memory lane. From time to time we like to bring out these visual memories, a series of black and white photos taken during the early days of our 25 years on Market Square. We were young, daring, and sometimes a little silly (if you can believe that) during our first, fervent years. And it shows in the pictures that line the wall.
The series is the work of two photographers: Bruce Cole and David Andrews. Bruce was the first; he would follow us around downtown taking pictures that we would use for advertisements. These were the days of the Flying Tomato, our moniker before we grew into the Tomato Head, when smokers still lit up in dining rooms and our sandwich board outside advertised escargots as a pizza topping.
If you look to the southwest corner of our dining room, you’ll see a picture of Mahasti and the Flying Tomato crew in what became one of the very first ads we ran in Metro Pulse (may it rest in peace). There’s another photo of a seemingly naked crew standing behind a banner – in truth, of course, we were all clothed, but we sure hoped you thought otherwise. And we were almost wild enough to streak, especially if that would have gotten people into the restaurant.
There’s another photo that we can’t even imagine taking these days: the crew, young and small, all lined up with our heads sticking out of the pizza oven.
Bruce stuck with us for many years but eventually he moved on, and David Andrews began to document our shenanigans. But David’s eye was drawn to more of what was happening in the restaurant both with our staff and guests. If you’re a longtime friend – you might see someone you know. One of our favorite guest shots is of writer, performer and media personality, Bob Deck. In the photo, which you can see in the southeast corner of the dining room, Bob sits in the old place with his infant daughter, Olivia. In a sweet twist of fate, that photo has come full circle in a way – Olivia works with us now.
In addition to memories of madcap merriment amidst some very, very hard work that led to the Tomato Head of today, the exhibit reminds us of just how close a community we were; co-workers, guests, friends all mingled together – lines were blurry then. What was clear was that we were in good company with a good vibe that was rambunctious at times, always a little spirited. It’s possible that the intervening years have tamed our rambunctiousness a bit – we’re certainly not as wild as once we were – but the vibe still feels pretty good and the company couldn’t be finer. And for that, we’re grateful.