The hospitality industry is an inherently competitive one. It’s competitive just about anywhere you go, and Taos is no different. In fact, Taos’ desirability and reputation as a destination town makes vying for customers even more intense than …
The hospitality industry is an inherently competitive one. It’s competitive just about anywhere you go, and Taos is no different. In fact, Taos’ desirability and reputation as a destination town makes vying for customers even more intense than other vacation spots.
Abraham Juarez knows the industry well. The 39-year-old moved to Taos about a year ago to be the general manager of El Monte Sagrado Living Resort and Spa — one of Taos’ newer hotel properties.
The property was built in 2003 and significantly updated in 2007. El Monte Sagrado changed ownership about a year ago, just before Juarez came into his management position. Heritage Hotels and Resorts, the largest independent hotel chain in New Mexico, bought the 84-room property, located at 317 Kit Carson Road for an undisclosed amount. The property was previously owned by Orlando, Florida’s Kessler Enterprise.
Heritage Hotels also owns another Taos property — the eight-room Palacio de Marquesa Taos located at 405 Cordoba Road — which was acquired in 2013 and renovated in 2014. In addition to Taos, Heritage has properties up and down the Río Grande, in Las Cruces, Albuquerque and Santa Fe — a total of 10.
Juarez, who grew up in Rio Rancho, has been a manager before. He has extensive experience in hotels, food and beverage operations, and the restaurant industry.
We asked him to tell us a little more about himself and his new job in Taos.
Tell us about your personal and professional background.
I started in the food and beverage industry the day I turned 16 — as a dishwasher in Rio Rancho. I have always been very work oriented and have worked every day since. I have been fortunate to work a majority of my career with family owned restaurants, where I was able to get to know the owners and operators of where I worked and stood over their shoulders to learn more about the business and what it takes to be successful. Prior to joining Heritage Hotels and Resorts, I worked for the Roessler Group in Albuquerque. There, I advanced from bartender to bar manager, wine buyer and mixologist for a top restaurant in Nob Hill. After a brief time in Phoenix, I came back and started bartending at their restaurant in Old Town. After about four months, I was promoted to general manager and also performed as wine buyer and mixologist for the restaurant.
What has your Taos experience been like so far?
Taos has been a great experience. I have lived in small towns and larger cities through out my career. I will honestly say the people in Taos are so kind and friendly it has made my transition here easier than I expected.
Tell us a little bit about your position at El Monte Sagrado.
A day in this position never is the same — there is constant motion in the hotel. Even when the occupancy is low, there is a lot to do. We are constantly striving to make this the premier property in New Mexico. With that comes organization, innovation and service. And that stems from my team of leaders that I couldn’t do this job without. I have one of the best teams in the state and they are brilliant beyond words.
All a day in the life of a GM?
Each day has its fair amount of ups and downs, highs and lows. But every day I keep a positive attitude and tackle the problems head on — and celebrate the victories with accolades and smiles. Focusing on revenue management and building occupancy through different promotions and advertising, we want to be a leader for tourism in Taos, bringing more people to this beautiful community. I am constantly looking at the numbers, paying attention to the revenue and how to balance the books for each department. With my background, I will be focusing on our food and beverage department for the coming months to elevate the service and quality of our outlets. We want the locals to come back again and fall in love with what we have to offer.
How different is it to work for a local chain versus a corporate one?
It is very different working for an independent hotel versus a corporate chain. There is more individual personality and autonomy, which is great. Heritage is a great company. They really do care about New Mexico and preserving the culture that makes New Mexico unique. There is so much personal attention and interaction with everyone on the corporate level, from the founder and CEO, Jim Long, to the newest IT assistant. It’s great that I get to interact with them on a weekly basis, as we can discuss ideas and issues openly. I have not worked for a corporate environment that allows that. What attracted me to the company is that even with all of our growth, the Heritage Hotels culture still has that feeling of a family owned business.
What’s the most surprising thing about living and working in Taos?
How beautiful the environment and spirit is here.
The toughest thing?
Taos gets a little quiet after 9 p.m.
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