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Zebu Forno Closing Doors on Tuesday

European-style eatery, coffee spot opened in August 2010 on South Street.

After almost two years, is closing its doors at the end of the day Tuesday.

by  the previous year, the European-style cafe specializing in pizza, coffee and sandwiches–as well as a number of art programs and installations–was a labor of love for the former real estate developer. 

On Monday afternoon, the father of four admitted he had teared up more than once after making the decision to close.

"The best times I had was when I had good music or nice artwork here, I just liked to give back," he said.

The large cafe at 9 South St. had become known as a place not only to get something to eat but to catch some live music, see an art installation or host a fundraiser. Oliver's choice of events was done not only to add variety to the Morristown landscape but out of financial necessity.

"It just didn't make money, that was a shortcoming," he said. "I'm sure there are things I could have done differently."

Whether or not every business decision bore fruit, Oliver's employees are walking away from more than just jobs.

"I love Bill, he's like my dad," said store manager Bria Young, one of the first employees to open the store on Aug. 3, 2010. "He's like everyone's dad."

Especially for Oliver's daughter, 20-year-old Kate Oliver, who came back every summer from Lehigh University to get to work. She recalled when her father first told the family he was going to invest in his very first restaurant. "I was a little nervous. But I was also excited," she said. "I always wanted to know the people in a restaurant.

"I know it sounds corny, but they have really become a family," she said. "Everyone gets along with everyone. I'm sad. I genuinely had fun coming to work."

Last summer Atalie Gimmel, entering her senior year at , had never had a job.

"Bill was so nice," said Gimmel, now graduated and headed to Loyola University this fall. "It was my first job ever. I had no experience whatsoever. He was patient with me."

"Things weren't always perfect, but Bill really gave it his all," employee Jackie Shribbs said. "I just feel bad that it didn't work out.

"Bill really cares about us, and we care about him. We all know each other's secrets," she said with a laugh.

Oliver said the intention of Zebu Forno was never to get rich. "It was almost like, make enough money so I could give back," he said. "There are reasons I'm glad I did it. I have to work a lot harder."

With three kids still in school, Oliver knew family had to come first. Still, "you hate to not be successful."

Earlier this year, another popular coffee spot, . This shortly after java giant . 

Oliver said the coffee chain may have taken some of that part of his business away, but he did not blame them for his decision to close. 

Sam Barnes, a former employee of Zebu Forno, agreed. "It was part of the problem, not the whole problem," he said. "It was more competition."

"We were much more than just coffee," Young said.

As he sat and thought about the end in sight, Oliver said it was the people–employees, customers–he would miss the most. "I wanted this to be a place where people would say, 'hey, nice to see you.' I think we did that," he said. 

What's next? Oliver said he would take at least a month off to rest and spend more time with his family, especially his wife, Laura. "Hopefully, another door opens," he said. "I just want to thank everyone for their time, for their support."

David Steketee July 16, 2012 at 09:12 PM
Not real surprised. It had a confusing layout, poorly orchestrated ordering process, and mediocre food. :|
Ryan July 16, 2012 at 09:37 PM
Hey let's dump on someone who just closed a business and probably lost a good bit of money - real nice. Always enjoyed Zebu - great paninis. Sorry to see it go.
Dw. Dunphy July 16, 2012 at 11:11 PM
This is not a dump on Starbucks but an observation I need to make -- Zebu Forno had the casual feeling I used to experience from actual coffeehouses, versus Starbucks where the sofa can be used but the owners don't expect you to stay on it too long. Zebu Forno seemed like a great place to go after a concert at the Mayo. You could sit a while, drink a coffee, decompress, talk about the show (maybe sober up a bit, too) and you never had the impression the clock was ticking over your head. Mr. Oliver may be depressed by this turn of events, but he should be proud that he (for the largest part) got it right. He achieved that friendly, slightly bohemian vibe and never made the customers feel pressured. Mostly, his enemy was the ever-lingering pallor on the economy. Morristown is not the only town where businesses are coming and going at a breakneck pace, sadly.
Janice Molinari July 16, 2012 at 11:22 PM
I always enjoyed Zebu. It had a different feel than you get from a chain like Starbucks. It felt as if they were invested in the community. As a Morristown business owner who opened a community building business as a labor of love, I feel for the owners. We don't open businesses like this to get rich. We do it to make a difference. Thanks to the owners of Zebu for bringing more heart to the morristown community. You will be missed!
Motown Resident July 17, 2012 at 12:10 PM
Sorry to see them go! People tend to take it for granted that a business will succeed. The constant chirping of the residents of 40 Park might change there tune if Morristown returns to the days of high vacancies. Let's hope another business that can add some more dimension to the downtown takes Zebu's place. BTW, I'm with you Ryan.
hernando gonzalez July 17, 2012 at 12:16 PM
Dougherty would never have let you open that place if you were Hispanic! For once in your life you would have been better off being Hispanic
john July 17, 2012 at 12:22 PM
Sad day for Morristown. Zebu was always a place you could count on ... Always greeted w a smile, convenient, warm and fun.
Lindsey S July 17, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Agreed! Every weekend, myself about about 15 of my other gym friends would stop by Zebu for a casual post workout brunch. We always felt welcomed and never felt rushed to leave. We're all incredibly sad to see it go... and also at a loss as far as finding another place in Morristown that would be able to accommodate our crew. Wishing all the best to Mr. Oliver in future endeavors.
The Mud Lady August 01, 2012 at 12:40 PM
Oh good, I hope they open up a 19th frozen yogurt place in that spot.

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