Updated Dec. 29 at 5 p.m.
A busy lunch rush got even busier on Wednesday (Dec. 28) after diners heard through the grapevine this week that the owners of El Taoseño Restaurant finally found a buyer and would be serving up their last plates of chile-laden New Mexico foods on Friday (Dec. 31).
“It's time to retire and time to move on. That's just the bottom line,” said co-owner and general manager Fred Archuleta.
And retirement has been an unusually long time coming for Archuleta and his four siblings, who are co-owners. The family listed the restaurant for sale in January 2020, but announced just this week that it had finally found a buyer for the 23,000 square foot space: their neighbor, Mary Domito, the longtime owner of the highly-successful Mattress Mary's furniture, mattress and branded apparel company in Taos.
"It's still pending, but it's pretty much a done deal," Archuleta said.
After running her flagship location next to Albertsons in Taos for many years, Domito began leasing the space next to El Taoseño in 2019 under the name "Mattress Mary's Mountain Lifestyle." Domito told the Taos News in a phone interview Wednesday morning (Dec. 29) that she started to seriously consider purchasing the space this spring after leasing a new space for a planned expansion didn't pan out. "I started thinking that maybe buying something is the thing to do here," she said. "The space is divine. Then I started thinking about how to make the space work for my business and the growth of my business."
Domito said she plans to join the two buildings to create "one store." The front entrance to the existing restaurant, she said, will serve as the new main entrance to the conjoined space. She is planning to convert the restaurant dining room into a branded apparel and gift gallery section. The rear of the restaurant will then be used to display and sell mattresses and the old bowling alley section of the building will be closed off to be used as a warehouse, she said.
Archuleta said since they announced they were closing after nearly 40 years of being in business, they have been flooded with messages expressing congratulations but also sadness that their favorite restaurant will be closing. Archuleta also said that people from out of town messaged the restaurant and stated El Taoseño was also one of their certain stops when visiting Taos.
The 10,400 square foot adobe-style building at 819 Paseo del Pueblo Norte has “a lot of memories,” according to Archuleta. The building, originally constructed in 1957, had evolved from a bowling alley to a dance hall to “El Taoseño.”
El Taoseño was founded in 1983 right across the street from its current location by Fred’s parents Arturo and Connie Archuleta (who is turning 91 years old in January). Several years later, Fred and his siblings Yolanda Muñoz, Orlando Archuleta, Diana Gonzales and Leonard Archuleta became co-owners of the establishment.
“So we were just part of the community. We're like an institution. We used to help people with fundraisers, we would let them use the hall,” said co-owner Yolanda Muñoz.
From benefit dances that could host hundreds of people, to their father’s work as town councilor, to their famed green chile dishes — El Taoseño served as a favorite spot for many locals over the years. Archuleta said they’re famous for their huevos rancheros, green chile smothered breakfast burritos, country fried steak, “El Taoseño Burger” and their borracho burritos.
“It’s Hatch chile and hot but not too hot. It's where you can enjoy a good flavor, the flavor that just stays with you,” said Archuleta.
Archuleta said the reason they were able to stay in business and outlast national chain restaurants like Denny's and Applebee's was because of their chile, fair prices and good service.
“We've had lots of employees that we've employed throughout the years. I mean, we were employing up to 40 people at our peak season,” said Archuleta.
Four generations of Archuleta’s family worked at El Taoseño, from his parents to his great grandchildren. Archuleta also noted that a few of his current employees working there were related to each other. “It’s a family affair,” said Muñoz with a chuckle.
None of the younger family members were interested in taking over the family business, he said, because they all took different career paths.
He said since they listed the property, they’ve received a few offers from people and “entities” from out of town, but felt it was important to go with a local buyer.
As the year 2021 comes to a close, Taoseños have seen some of their favorite local hangouts shut down operations this year, such as The Coffee Spot, Casa de Valdez and now El Taoseño.
However, Fred Archuleta said the name “El Taoseño,” along with its recipes, can still be sold as only the building has been purchased.
“Thank you to all our customers… we're gonna miss them after all these years. You know they say they're gonna miss us but we're gonna miss them too. It was a pleasure serving the community for all these years,” said Archuleta.
Domito said the ink should be dry on the deal as early as Monday (Jan. 3).