Bike Life Voices: Anne Keller

I am the founder and owner of the Hot Tomato in Fruita, CO with my partner Jen Zeuner. We opened in 2005 basically because we didn't really know what else to do with ourselves, thought a restaurant couldn't be too hard (ha!) and because we didn't want to drive all the way to Grand Junction for jobs, which left little other choice in Fruita at the time. 

Prior to moving to Fruita, I lived in Moab, UT where in typical Moab fashion I worked as a mountain bike guide and at a bike shop.

I grew up in the Seattle area in the town of Issaquah, which now has some of the most stellar biking in the state. It would have been great had mountain biking existed at the level it does now back when I was growing up there as it probably would have made my awkward teen years less agonizing.....

What are your preferred pronouns?
She/Her/"Hey Pizza Lady"/etc

Tell us about the Action Sisters!
Those bitches are formidable. They generally keep to themselves tending to their ailments, but on occasion can be coerced out when bikes and alcohol are involved. 

The Action Sisters came about when our good friend Geri Action (the original sister) needed some moral support for her entry into the 90-plus age category at Durango Singlespeed Worlds in 2009. The sisters drove all the way from their retirement in Florida to cheer Geri on and heckle and harass all the young men and women racing. The family is pretty large; Geri, Teri, Sheri, Mary, Keri and recently we just found out about our distant cousin Dairy Action; she's lactose intolerant. 
Unfortunately, Teri Action might be down for the count for a while; she goes in for hip surgery in a few weeks. She'll actually put the walker to good use.

Have you felt that you had to go the extra mile to prove that you belong in the cycling community?
Not really to be honest. I've been fortunate to have always felt mostly included in the cycling community and outdoor community in general. I've been biking long enough to have been involved in the sport before it became 'cool' and I like to think that the roots of being a kind of misfit sport can help a feeling of inclusivity. To be fair, I know that the experience of people actually working within the cycling industry has been different, but in terms of being largely just a participant, I've always felt that it was a welcoming environment. 

Have you felt that you had to go the extra mile to prove that you belong in your (non-cycling) community?
Whew, I think that any woman in a business ownership role or leadership role will tell you that our implicit biases towards women in positions of leadership have a long way to go. That's just simply being female in business, nothing to do with being gay. Thankfully this attitude is much less apparent in younger generations, so I imagine some big leaps forward as Millennials and Gen Z age folks start opening/continue opening their own businesses.

One of my favorite stories is of an older gentleman who came, sat at our bar for a few hours, watched everything, and then asked our bartender "So, who is the man that is behind all of this because this business is too well run to be owned by women." While he might have been the most explicit in his verbalization, that opinion is one that we have commonly felt in much more underhanded ways. 

I'm going to veer a little off the original question, but I'm really happy with the direction the restaurant industry is heading. The industry in general has been particularly dominated by straight, white men for so long in regards to who gets recognition and exposure. In parallel to the timing of the outdoor industry examining diversity and inclusion within its ranks I do feel that the restaurant industry has also been taking a long hard look at itself lately. The recognition of women, LGBTQ+, and BIPOC folks in the food industry is finally happening. It's not that restaurants haven't been diverse, particularly culturally; it's an industry that has a long history of diversity as the economic barrier to entry in restaurants is typically low enough, (provided it's not some fancy crazy build out or in expensive urban areas or resort towns) that food establishments have long been attractive business opportunities to immigrant communities in our country. In my opinion, it's one of the most beautiful things about our melting pot country is the huge variety of food available to us. It's refreshing to see that the industry as a whole is finally recognizing places like the mom and pop Lebanese restaurant in the shopping center or the James Beard award-winning taco truck in Tucson and not just white celebrity chef culture like the Gordon Ramsays of the world. I'm not certain I'd describe our position as feeling like we had something to prove per se, but only because I'm fairly non-competitive and honestly don't really care about proving anything. However, as Women, LGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities gain more traction in food culture, the result I imagine will be a lessening of an assumption of our incompetence by the old guys of the world :)

What would you love to see happen in the industry to make it more inclusive to the lgbtqia+ and BIPOC communities?
I think a lot about my experience becoming involved in mountain biking. I started riding in the mid-nineties, which correlated to the peak of exposure of mountain bike racing in the US. There was TV coverage, there was tons of magazine coverage, sponsors, advertisements, etc. Annndddd, there were a number of prominent gay female athletes in both DH and XC racing. While I probably couldn't articulate it at the time, the idea of representation is a powerful one for me. Because of the exposure of people like the Missy Gioves in cycling it was really easy for me, as a 19-year-old gay girl, to be like "Oh yeah, there's totally a place for me in this sport." We know statistics of group involvement because there's been a number of social studies that tell me that if I look around at a given activity and I see no one that looks like me, It's unlikely I will consider joining. 
While representation doesn't answer all the questions in terms of participation; we have very big economic and access based hurdles to figure out in our sport, I do think it is a powerful driver for inclusivity. 
I support the trend of many big companies right now publishing media content and advertising content using athletes from LGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities. If we hope to broaden our participation it's really important that all of us see a place in the sport. 
Do you have any favorite cycling-specific organizations/groups that are BIPOC and lgbtqia+ friendly that folks should know about?
I think People for Bikes has been one of the first major mainstream bike organizations to start having the conversation around participation and accessibility. In terms of general outdoor groups, as of yet I don't think they've done anything cycling specific but the Venture Out Project is doing some great things for LGBTQ+ folks in regards to hiking and backpacking.