After 32 years in business, the owners of Geppetto's have sold the downtown restaurant to their chef.

After 32 years in business, the owners of Geppetto's have sold the downtown restaurant to their chef.

Ron Roth handed the Geppetto's spatula to chef John Trapp on Thursday, signifying the change of ownership at the restaurant.

Roth and his wife, Kathleen MacMichael, founded and ran the restaurant for 32 years, eight months and 20 days, he said.

"That's a lot of days," Roth said Thursday. "We're old and tired. It feels great to not have to go to work."

As of Monday, Trapp and his wife, Tiffani Runyon, officially own Geppetto's.

They plan to make subtle changes to the restaurant and will "tighten up the menu," Trapp said. They are keeping the name of the restaurant and many of the workers, he said.

"Geppetto's has been a great asset to the community and we want to continue being that asset and continue to be long-running," Trapp said. "It's been here over 30 years and there's no reason why it doesn't have another 30 years left in it."

The restaurant — something of a landmark in downtown Ashland — has been popular with various city officials, artists and musicians in its 32 years, MacMichael said.

"We love to feed people and it's been a real blessing to be able to share food with so many local people who live here and visitors to Rogue Valley," she said. "It's been wonderful watching people grow."

MacMichael and Roth put the restaurant on the market in early 2008, and began discussions with Trapp and Runyon several months ago, Roth said.

Earlier this year, controversy surrounded the restaurant after police cited the owners for failing to turn in meals-tax money they had collected.

This summer, the city moved to take Roth and MacMichael to court, in order to collect the money, but it appears the two parties may come to an agreement soon and avoid a hearing, Roth said.

"It will involve us having the settlement agreement and making payments on the account," he said.

The meals tax debt to the city remains with Roth and MacMichael — it was not transferred to Trapp and Runyon during the sale of the restaurant, Trapp said.

Trapp has no plans to withhold the meals tax money he collects, he said.

"The city will get money from me," he said. "It's not that big a deal to me."

Even though Roth and MacMichael will no longer be washing dishes, waiting tables and cooking food at the restaurant, they don't plan to retire in the typical sense, Roth said.

They will continue to work on Eagle Mill Farm of which they are partial owners, help out the Rogue Valley Farm to School program and do event catering.

The couple is ready to move on from the restaurant, but there are a few things they will miss, Roth said.

"I'll miss the free lunch," he said. "That'll be probably one of the biggest things."

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.