Jonathon Hieb

Jonathon Hieb

Sweet Pea’s Hieb accused of theft

Market operator suspected of stealing while employed at Bella’s


— Jonathon Hieb, who operates Sweet Pea Market and Cafe in downtown Steamboat Springs, was arrested Thursday on suspicion of stealing from his off-season employer, Bella’s wine bar.

According to an affidavit filed with Routt County Court, Hieb, 45, is accused of stealing $2,631 in cash and product from Bella’s, where he worked as a server and bartender. Hieb was charged with theft between $1,000 and $20,000, a Class 4 felony, Steamboat Springs Police Department Detective Jerry Stabile said.

Bella’s is still completing an audit, and the amount could be larger, Stabile said Friday.

Hieb declined to speak about the accusations. Hieb’s attorney, Grant Bursek, sent a letter to the Pilot & Today stating, “Sweet Pea is (in) no way involved with Mr. Hieb’s criminal matter.”

The affidavit said Bella’s co-owner Nick Ciraldo hired Hieb in October. Ciraldo told police that Hieb was trying to “gather enough cash to restart” Sweet Pea and Ciraldo thought he could trust him because of his experience in the restaurant and bar business.

But Ciraldo told police he soon became suspicious of Hieb.

“The nights that Mr. Hieb has worked the registers sales are not balanced and inventory of the liquor stock has consistently come up short and not matched the sales history of the business on a weekly basis,” the affidavit said.

On March 23, Ciraldo began a series of “secret dinners,” where he would have friends visit Bella’s while Hieb was working and pay cash for their meals and drinks, according to the affidavit. In the affidavit, Ciraldo said he repeatedly found the transactions were not entered in the cash register and tickets were unaccounted for.

The affidavit also said Ciraldo provided police with an audit he conducted in March. It showed that during eight shifts that Hieb worked in March, he recorded 122 credit card transactions and six cash transactions. During 16 shifts that Ciraldo worked, he recorded 135 credit card transactions and 111 cash transactions.

Ciraldo opened Bella’s in February 2010 with his sister Lisa Ciraldo-Freese. They also run Chocolate Soup Pastry Cafe upstairs at 737 Lincoln Ave.

“We’re really, really upset that this has occurred,” Ciraldo said Friday. “We’re a family business, and we put a lot of trust in our employees, so when something like this happens, it’s really disappointing. It stinks.”

Hieb was arrested and released Thursday after posting $5,000 bail.

Stabile said Hieb is due in court at 8:30 a.m. June 21.

When reached by phone Friday, Hieb said Sweet Pea, at 729 Yampa St., would open with its usual summer plant sale Memorial Day weekend. The cafe is scheduled to open a week or 10 days later.

Hieb runs the market with Katherine Zambrana, who is listed as the owner of the business, according to the Colorado Secretary of State.

Hieb and Sweet Pea made news last fall when Routt County commissioners, acting as the county’s board of health, revoked Sweet Pea’s retail food establishment license, after citing the restaurant for noncompliance with health regulations.

— To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email


blue_spruce 5 years, 11 months ago

hopefully the other owner of sweet pea will be able to make it work w/o this DB. i have to admit that i really like sweet pea...please don't throw in the towel. you guys rock.


Rob Douglas 5 years, 11 months ago

Sweet Pea is a great establishment. I can't wait for them to open up this spring. The food is great and the market is even better. In addition to the fact that people in this country are innocent until proven guilty, Sweet Pea is the combined effort of many folks far beyond Hieb. I look forward to them being another thriving business on Yampa Street this summer along with all the hard working folks that will have jobs.


Scott Wedel 5 years, 11 months ago

Note how the owner of Bellas instead of simply firing someone he was pretty sure of stealing instead went to the trouble to prove it and bring charges.


blue_spruce 5 years, 11 months ago

i bet thalgard is the owner of a competing business....just a thought


1999 5 years, 11 months ago

yeah, why didn't he just fire the guy after his intial suspicions?


seeuski 5 years, 11 months ago

I wish Katherine well and can't wait till they reopen. This incident is a shock and certainly troubling.


babette dickson 5 years, 11 months ago

Beyond all the facts Sweet Pea is an amazing place to be, and I will remain a loyal customer. I think most everyone is going trough a very difficult time with the current state of the economy. The vibes are not good and folks need to talk, or seek help, if the stress to make a living here becomes unbearable... Please make wise decisions no matter what! It can be very depressing... Keep your chin up folks!


Kuri 5 years, 11 months ago

1999, " why didn't he just fire the guy after his intial suspicions?" Good question. Can't help thinking there's more to this story than has been reported. That said, I will continue to support Katherine and look forward to Sweet Pea reopening.


gettinold 5 years, 11 months ago

My hats off to Mr.Ceraldo for not just passing the problem, he suspected there was a issue and didnt just fire the individual and possibly pay unemployment benifits or allow that individual to go and possibly steal from another buisness in town. He offered a solution instead of passing on a problem to someone else. Now its up to the courts.


jerry carlton 5 years, 11 months ago

1999 If you just fire the guy, he goes up the street, gets another job and starts stealing from them. Thieves need to be held responsibile for their actions, assuming he is guilty which a jury or more likely a plea bargain will determine. There has been an epidemic of embezzelment, burning money because you are mad, stealing by employees of a bank. The list goes on and on. I understand times are hard but white collar crime is not the proper response. I know none of the people involved, have never been in Bella's and once in a while buy fresh okra from Sweet Peas. I always wash all vegetables well before cooking .


sledneck 5 years, 11 months ago

Sticky-fingered bunch of folks around these parts, me thinks.

And it's an insult to honest people to even suggest that hard times make or excuse theft. Lots of people in lots of places live with a lot less and they NEVER steal. Hands that steal should be chopped off. Heads that don't learn... ditto.


Scott Wedel 5 years, 11 months ago

I'd guess the owner was particularly annoyed because it was a person he trusted that was stealing. It was probably doubly annoying to have to determine if it was staff stealing him blind or the trusted person.


boatborn 5 years, 11 months ago

interesting that comments pro Hieb keep disappearing......


Blythe Terrell 5 years, 11 months ago

Hi, boatborn,

Thanks for your comments. The comments removed made allegations against another business owner that could be seen as defamatory. They were removed per the website's terms of use policy, which can be found here:

We also removed several comments that raised allegations against the Sweet Pea establishment that weren't related to this case or Mr. Hieb's arrest.

Please feel free to contact me if you have questions.

Blythe Terrell City Editor 871-4234


WZ 5 years, 11 months ago

I beg to differ..... sweet pea needs to check its books..... who has a conscience....


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