A controversial yogurt shop in downtown Durango has closed, possibly for good.
Owners Ryan Bartholomew and Elissa Beckstead declined to give a phone interview. But in an email to The Durango Herald they wrote, “we are relocating.”
When asked to where, the owners wrote, “It depends at this point. We’ve always planned on moving and we have an opportunity in Arizona. But if not we will be back in the spring time.”
The owners made clear the decision was not influenced by the recent turmoil surrounding the dessert shop in recent months.
“I don’t need the community of Durango thinking they ran us out because that’s not the case period,” they wrote.
Speculation over whether Top That had closed started this week after the store was not open for business all week. The lights in the store are off and it looks like the freezers are unplugged. And the shop’s phone is disconnected.
“It looks quiet down there when I drive by,” said Tim Walsworth, director of the Durango Business Improvement District.
Also, it has been noted Bartholomew’s home is listed for sale.
Jerome Bleger, a local Realtor whose father, Jean Pierre, is the landlord of the building, said Top That has not paid its rent for the past few months. Recently, the owners were ordered to pay what they owe or move out of the building.
“It’s odd, for sure,” Bleger said.
Bleger said he has not been notified by Top That if the closure is permanent.
“It would just be nice to know,” he said.
Bleger said he’s not quite sure what the plan is moving forward with the commercial space, though it is likely he and his father will have to go inside to assess the situation.
“It’s a super question mark,” he said.
When a business in Durango closes, it is required to file paperwork with the city of Durango and settle all its taxes. Ben Florine, deputy city clerk, said no such paperwork or notification has been received from Top That.
Top That Frozen Yogurt in the 600 block of Main Avenue turned into a political lightning rod this year after putting up signs and flags outside its store supporting Republican candidates, becoming the site of several confrontations.
Then, the yogurt shop caught the ire of health officials and many local residents after offering a discount to customers who came into the store not wearing face coverings, which are required to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Then last month the shop’s front window was smashed, allegedly by two female juveniles, prompting one of the co-owners to put up a sign that reads, “I shoot to kill.”
Just last month, Top That’s owners acknowledged their actions in the past few months likely lost the shop customers, but they said they have also received support from many other people in and around the community.
“I know we lost some customers,” Beckstead said. “But we’ve gained a lot from our neighboring cities like Farmington and Cortez and everywhere else.”
After Top That put up signs supporting Republican candidates, the owners said they were subject to months of harassment and vandalism, as well as people going on social media to post fake negative reviews.
The owners shared security camera footage with The Durango Herald showing people coming into the store to confront staff members. In one, a person tries to steal a flag. In another, a woman shows her breasts and yells, “F*** Trump, baby boy.”
The owners, however, have also been involved in several altercations of their own.
In August, a 23-year-old woman is accused of punching Bartholomew in the face after the woman took issue with people not wearing face coverings at O’Reilly Auto Parts.
The woman, who was ticketed for disorderly conduct, said Bartholomew told her to “choke yourself with your mask.”
Over the past few months, videos have circulated on social media of Bartholomew confronting people involved with the local Black Lives Matter movement and making derogatory statements about LGBTQ people.
In October, about 20 people gathered outside Top That to taunt people during the Indigenous Peoples Day march.
And, after the store’s window was broken, Bartholomew put up signs at the store that read, “White Lives Matter” and “Kyle Rittenhouse is a HERO,” referring to the 17-year-old accused of shooting and killing three protesters in Wisconsin.
Bartholomew has maintained his actions were a reaction to months of being targeted and harassed.
“It’s disgusting the way we’ve been treated,” he said. “I’m not the type to back down.”
District Attorney Christian Champagne said this week charges have yet to be filed against the two juveniles suspected of breaking Top That’s window.
It’s estimated there was about $800 in damages.