A legacy of cherished food and family

El Taoseño Restaurant goes up for sale

By Jesse Moya
jmoya@taosnews.com
Posted 1/23/20

El Taoseño general manager Fred Archuleta smiled at a wall filled top to bottom with photos of his children and grandchildren inside the restaurant he and his family have run in Taos for nearly 37 years.

"It's just time for us to retire and enjoy our lives," he said.

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A legacy of cherished food and family

El Taoseño Restaurant goes up for sale

Posted

El Taoseño general manager Fred Archuleta smiled at a wall filled top to bottom with photos of his children and grandchildren inside the restaurant he and his family have run in Taos for nearly 37 years.

"It's just time for us to retire and enjoy our lives," he said.

This month, the owners of El Taoseño Restaurant - a popular New Mexican eatery located on the south end of town - have decided to sell the business and the property it sits on.

The restaurant has weathered many winters and served countless locals and visitors since it opened in 1983.

Archuleta's parents, Arturo and Connie, first opened the business across the street from its current location, in between the lots where Rivera's Funeral Home and Dollar Tree now sit. In the 1990s, El Taoseño moved to the 2-acre property that went up for sale this month.

After serving time in the United States National Guard as a cook, Arturo Archuleta began his business venture in the restaurant industry with the appropriately name "El Taoseño." His family eventually followed.

"I was able to carry on my dad's business and that makes me proud," Fred Archuleta said.

In 1997, he left behind his first career as a construction surveyor to take the main seat at El Taoseño. Together with his four siblings - Yolanda Muñoz, Orlando Archuleta, Diana Gonzales and Leonard Archuleta - he keeps the Taoseño name alive.

The sibling owners recently met to discuss the future of their business. Together, they decided it was time to step back and put the property and the business on the market.

The restaurant is currently listed on the Berkshire Hathaway HS Taos Real Estate's website for $2.4 million. The price includes the entire property the business sits on, as well as the adjoining space, currently leased by Mattress Mary's Mountain Lifestyle. The building itself was constructed in 1957 and has since been remodeled and made to fit modern standards.

A restaurant beer and wine license is attached to the property the building sits on. In the mid-2000s, the family sold a full liquor license, which allowed them to serve a wider range of alcoholic drinks during the dances and other events in a back room.

The dances stopped before 2010 as the owners all agreed they wanted to focus more on the restaurant side of the business, which has become a major draw for locals and visitors to enjoy authentic New Mexican breakfast, lunch and dinner foods.

On a typical day, El Taoseño's main dining room is abuzz with tables full of curious visitors as well as regulars who know exactly what they'll order. The menu includes traditional New Mexican cuisine ranging from stuffed sopapillas to huevos rancheros. Everything has the option for Christmas chile if the customer can't decide between red or green.

Gonzales said their chefs may still be cooking for some time.

"It's not going to happen right away," said Gonzales about a possible sale. "It could take four to five years."

So far, there have been no offers made or prospective buyers for the building.

El Taoseño will remain open as they search for a potential buyer for the property. Fred Archuleta was concerned his customers might think the restaurant is simply closing. He wants to ensure the community that the locally renowned food joint will keep serving until a sale is made.

"It's business as usual," he said.

Employees at El Taoseño were shocked to learn the restaurant had been placed on the market, according to Fred Archuleta's wife, Frieda Archuleta.

In order to ease their confusion and worry, the siblings held a meeting on Monday (Jan. 20) to inform their 40 employees of the potential sale and what it could mean for their future. According to Fred Archuleta, the new buyer would be in charge of deciding if the employees stay onboard.

"It's a real family feel here," Archuleta said. "Our servers already know what some people are going to eat before they even order."

El Taoseño owners agreed that it is the current staff and the legacy of past employees that makes the restaurant something really special. Muñoz said there have been generations of community members who have come through their doors to either enjoy a meal or work in the restaurant.

"Part of it was just that community feel," she said. "We brought the community into the business and made them a part of it."

Hundreds of Taoseños have worked at the restaurant; many have gone on to become teachers, doctors and other important figures in the community. The siblings say it's truly a family business; all of their children have worked at the restaurant in some capacity over the years.

El Taoseño is such a staple in the community that it is not uncommon to see various community movers and shakers together in the restaurant eating or catching up with neighbors and friends.

Members of Taos Pueblo, county and town residents as well as visitors from out of state regularly flock to the local favorite for the food, service and family feel, according to Muñoz.

"It's all the community that comes here," Fred Archuleta said. "It's all the Taoseños."

Once the news of the sale broke, an outcry on social media caused the Archuleta family to issue a letter to their fans thanking them for their years of loyal patronage.

"I won't know where to eat when I come and visit now," said Facebook user Carolyn Chatwin Murset.

For decades, El Taoseño has served authentic New Mexican food to the locals and visitors of Taos and the owners are hoping whoever the potential new buyers are will uphold that legacy.

"Shocking," said Taos Historic Preservation chair Cynthia Spray on a Facebook post. "Love this place. Decades of great memories."

Both the property and the "El Taoseño" name will be offered as part of the sale, but Archuleta hopes the buyers will retain the name, the feel and the staff that customers have come to love.

"I'm satisfied that we've done what we have done," Fred Archuleta said about the legacy of the business. "We're ready to move on, but I'm going to really miss the food."

The siblings said they are not actively looking to sell the place as soon as possible and are comfortable with waiting however long it takes to close a deal. Despite the memories and lasting legacy, all of the siblings said they feel at peace and are ready to pass the torch to a new owner.

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