Measured accomplishment

door knobThe simpler something appears, it’s assured that the more attention applied to the smallest of details will help determine your success in any adventure.

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”Albert Einstein

“Easy as pie” in the motto here, being more impressed by our group in the dining room and above and beyond is evident these first days and business is picking up with only word of mouth advertisement and a few flyers. Easy dessert is reflected in the laughter of our employees as we work through the rough spots and schedule conflicts. It is easy to see that nearly everyone is happy to be here, and that feeling carries me through these long days.

Doing payroll for the first time in many, many years I anticipated the challenge ahead of time and I am quite fortunate to have other “numbers” people to assist as we have now appointed department heads that get paid more and have fewer weekend hours.

The balance of costs and expected profits is quite fun actually if you can roll with the unexpected events and changes, with the constant activity a welcome change to the sounds and smells of construction. The flexibility and willingness of doing face to face visits, and listening to recommendations to the constantly changing menu.

Coordinating with our customers, servers, dishwashers and cooks is keeping me far too far from any trouble I could be gettin’ into in this tiny town, yet I do have my share of laughter and fun these days.

As with many years past our season in central New Mexico is starting soon and the festivals, rodeos and fiestas are coming. We have two weddings booked, a grand opening on Cinco de Mayo and music event planning is progressing too. I am amazed how people just stop by to eat on their way through or on a loop from Albuquerque on their motorcycles.

This historic hotel and dining room is the best place in town and I plan on making it even more popular and the food more delicious. Champagne eggs and bananas foster french toast for Mother’s Day brunch anyone?

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Windy Mornings…

Mountainair muralLiving in a remote, rural community I am truly celebrating my open willingness to appreciate the level of amazing high chaparral beauty, quiet and activities in nature near by.

Simply finding something to do in this small town was at first on the verge of impossible, what I better understand is that you have to wander outside of the city limits.

I truly cannot wait to explore the northern (Red River) and southern (Ruidoso) parts of the state, but for now I’ll simply spend more time in and around the Manzano Mountains.

Heading to town and by that I mean Albuquerque is a normal, regular, if not weekly occurrence for many for it represents civilization and the only place you can shop for supplies and fresh fruits and vegetables.

Shaffer Dining RoomThe Shaffer Hotel, Dining Room and Ghost Lounge really are the only and very best venue in town for dining, meetings, musical entertainment and fun. The restaurant having been closed for extensive cleaning and renovations for over three weeks now has put the locals on edge.

Everyone has been stopping by to visit, view the improvements and to ask when we will reopen with a new and vastly better menu. Keep in mind that many of the residents came in to eat, have coffee and visit on a daily basis, some twice a day. You can rest assured that I am on a first name basis with many of them and even know what they typically order and if they tip the servers well.

If you want to go out, have a great meal, listen to live music and have a great time, this is THE place. Our plans continue to get closer to fruition, our recent pre-inspection by the state of New Mexico was filled with “Oh My” and “I am really impressed by what you have accomplished.” Our friendly, yet very thorough environmental department inspector was truly amazed and stated that this is the very best she has seen in well over ten years.

In the midst of a major remodel now nearing completion that ranges from the simple to the ridiculous, most of the more severe repairs are due to construction techniques done previously that border on elementary school math and science understanding. I am honestly amazed from seeing things prior to our extensive repair and upgrade that this beautiful and historic building originally completed back in 1923 has not burned down by now.

It has been an interesting voyage these past few months and I am busier than I have been in years getting this place ready for our season and several events we have planned. Two weddings are in the planning stages, a music event is almost tied down for our grand opening on Cinco de Mayo and the advertising onslaught begins. Bottom line is that the dining room is our best source of activity, employment and profits one the day to day operations.

A final few issues have been attended to, we have all of the paper work completed for the state’s final inspection and I am working with the cooks on the new menu to submit a huge food order for our first week of operation in nearly five weeks now. I am in contact with local farmers, the local meat processors and have just a few things left to do before spreading the word.

Ford King Ranch V10 4X4I am a little exhausted, I miss my kids back in California something terrible and I need to plan a trip that way soon to visit and retrieve the rest of my stuff that’s sitting in storage there.

I need my own place as soon as possible, I need a big 4X4 pickup and I will desperately need a dependable chain saw so I can begin to harvest the overgrowth of trees on the property I am continually dreaming of.

It’s all coming together – Yee Haw!

Hands Off…

scaredKnowing that the things you are scared of may indeed be the most rewarding and worthwhile, the chosen trend should be to take on a little more than you bargained for ~ right here and right now.

What may be only a theory in the eyes of many, some of us have found that taking a chance is rather fun and for me, it’s further evidence that I am indeed wandering along on my own road to discovery.

So what if you need a Wal Martini or three after shopping for supplies, vittals and 30 packs of Miller High Life at the largest retailer on planet earth ~ the important things is, you did it and you have survived!

Break free from time to time, expect nothing from anyone and follow your heart, your dreams even. Like the amazing, huge sky that spreads out before me each morning – limitless is an appropriate mode now. The more open communication you offer the citizens of Mountainair, NM the more you realize that they perceive such an odd-looking Californian as friendly and no efforts to impress anyone.

The smallish population (roughly 950) of my new community does what I had not imagined before moving here, that of a mixture of lives, personalities and personal histories that simply amaze. My rather eclectic crew of restaurant employees respond positively to my teasing and have come to appreciate my quest to connect and understand their challenges and create the very best cafe for miles and miles.

I may wear a new, wide brimmed hat here, but what I try to communicate more than anything is fairness and compassion ~ and I am feeling the reward of managing others with a very soft, yet not too distant hand. As more potential cooks, servers and dish washers come into apply for part time employment a major consideration and goal that everyone can get along ~ we shall see.

So very much enjoying the infusion of new, genuine friends, many who have lived in the area and some who have never lived anywhere else than the state of New Mexico. Time travels slower here and as we work diligently closer to a grand reopening the hours are long and all anyone can talk about is our completion date.

“You can have the other words-chance, luck, coincidence, serendipity. I’ll take grace. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I’ll take it.”Mary Oliver

So my early days are filled with juggling many aspects of coordinated navigation of projects and seeing the light at the end of a nine week tunnel, many loose ends are being tied up and a new shine appears.

What was a tantrum of broken scenes, our desire for a safe and clean center for great meals, musical events and will soon involve bride and groom, a gala rehearsal dinner and   outdoor, barefoot ceremony with an expected 300 guests.

What at first appeared to be simply a life adventure was transforming into a true rural ranch home, a successful business venture, and possibly a little romance. So, of all the words for obtaining possibile fruition, I’ll take grace and with that I’ll continue to dance aside the many prospects and possibilities.

Navy clean? I need Mom clean!

Sheriff's OfficeVia experimentation to clarify for all dining room employees what clean really means, a true measurement of what my Mother would deem acceptable is in direct correlation with how sore you are after a full days work of scubbing.

My good friend the Sheriff shared his Mother’s advice openly and remarked how it had become such a positive template for his life and how he expected others to live theirs – “Better keep yourself clean and bright. You are the window through which you must see the world.” – George Bernard Shaw

After many hours over nearly three weeks now, a good chunk of funds and some serious elbow grease the transformation to cleanliness and safety is quite remarkable.

The processes involved in taking over a cafe run rather grimy, unorganized and ultimately unsuccessfully by a family for the past few years has offered more than a few glimpses into the “behind the scenes” workings of a restaurant.  The processes of bringing meals to the public and providing an inviting, comfortable, delicious and safe environment my be more complex than many may realize.

Shaffer Dining RoomFor someone who has been on the “public only” side of things, I am enjoying a new understanding and appreciation of our cooks, servers and dish washers as they do definitely deserve our respect and gratuitous offerings.

Holding everything together, keeping your food costs low, opening very early, completing all of the required closing duties quite late are a seven-day per week undertaking. Having been thrown into the management of others in this small town environment, while staying away from the soda machine and the deep-fried finger foods, I am enjoying every minute of my ne adventure.

In the past I have managed many different teams, and successfully run lean, profitable businesses, yet this environment is far different and it requires more compassion and understanding than I had expected. With the income levels so low here, people need to be paid ever Friday and usually cash their checks from the register if possible.

The many requests for mid-week “draws” on their expected payday bonanza is quite common whether it’s for diapers or a 30 pack of Budweiser –  the essentials of life must be made available when at all possible.

All I know is that I am working long hours, juggling many hats and making progress on the improved safety and cleanliness of our cafe. I have a new understanding of “PHFs” and the proper handling of “potentially hazardous foods” as I have had the refrigeration brought up to code and will have all my employees be certified in safe food rules and regulations.

If you have never put together a completely new menu, I would not recommend you take on the task as literally everyone has their own take on family favorites. I love all of the input and suggestions, but I’m trying to keep our new and improved offerings under 100 pages.  Don’t get me started on New Mexico favorites either as that is a whole different world and a full page that must be included whether I like any of those items or not.

My quest for the ultimate “brown derby” salad, biscuits and gravy and the worlds best chicken enchiladas continues…

Half-assed

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Entering a world where the median income is less than $20k per year, you have unlimited opportunities to view and live within a world where life takes care of itself in simpler ways. The simple homes, the broken down cars and rusty farm equipment strewn about in yards and on ranches tells tales of life in better times.

What’s seen as appalling at first to a new comer from wherever it appears to be more affluent, more prestigious, more comfortable and filled with more opportunity, these lives I am now becoming part of and getting to know much better are no less filled with laughter and passion. It is a different world and on a much smaller scope than the burgeoning population I am used to, but you can rest assured that I having a wonderful time here in my new and rather remote rural home.

Quick fixes made with duct tape, baling wire and just about anything available as a temporary fix rather than tearing something down, having the funds to purchase the correct new or used parts and complete the repairs correctly is literally seen everywhere. Older cars damaged in accidents with crunched fenders, miss-matched tires, wheels, doors, hoods, trunk lids and tail lights covered in transparent red tape is very common.

The slow to recover economy is felt quite strongly here…

Over the past few weeks I have met numerous applicants looking for work in our hotel and cafe and soon to be opened live music “ghost” lounge as everyone it seems is searching for better ways to help make ends meet. Scenes where entire families work together to survive the cold, brace from the high chaparral wind and put food on the table and a little gas in their cars has made a lasting imprint on my heart and my soul.

A recent experience that tugs on these strings of hope for all involved the removal of a family whose business had failed and my employer is now taking over at the very end of a two-year run attempting to be profitable. As tensions rise, I am caught in the middle of an alarming scenario which I have tried to defuse gracefully for several weeks now.

The closing of a restaurant run very poorly and fraught with woes brought on by filth, the management that of a prison warden, shocking health concerns and personal tragedy for the past year. What at first appeared to be a very friendly, community focused family has now exposed itself via an amazingly grimy kitchen, broken down appliances and a myriad of patchwork repairs made with the tools, parts and know-how that would surely amaze anyone walking into my small town existence.

Having survived theft, vandalism, course words screamed from passing cars, rumors spread about our “hostile” and aggressive takeover, there is light in the kitchen and dining room that lends a warmer, cleaner place for complete families to dine at their leisure. The almost complete redesign of our menu, a huge leap in the quality of supplies and the introduction of such favorites as a pizza oven, a char-broiler, a slow cook b-b-q and actual ovens that can bake fresh fare are to be introduced very soon.

Having become very familiar with the New Mexican favorites, I am now well aware of the caution needed when introducing new choices and even higher quality ingredients should be introduced with caution. The adaptation of a recipe suggestion box will also be placed at the cafe door with a myriad of daily specials used to discover what menu items should be more than simply penciled in. The local favorites will be retained, yet with a new flare for quality and pricing that will bring people in that had been scared or even forced away in the past.

For a newbie restaurateur, I am inspired and with my new management style that includes understanding, communication and humor I am certain that the flow of hopeful employees will continue to my office door.

My next step will include the invitation to musical artists we will invite to perform most nights of the week. Those personalities are quite eclectic to say the least I am finding…

Bon appetite!

Tumbleweed stampede

tumbleweedPart of wandering along in the late afternoon with Mother Nature, one must be continually aware and open to a deeper appreciation of my current and diverse surroundings.

The open range of the high chaparral dotted as far as the eye can see with Pinon Pine and Cedar trees is exceptional terrain for tumbling tumble weeds.

One a recent walk alone under the early night sky I encountered such a breezy pathway as I stepped into a whirlwind and was nearly carried away by a stampede of the dry and brittle bushes. What fun indeed!

“Love is like the wind, you can’t see it but you can feel it.” ~ Nicholas Sparks

Combine that wondrous experience with a clear, black night sky blanketed with stars so remarkably close you can almost reach out and touch them. It just doesn’t get any better, yet it’s still quite cold and all you can think about after a few minutes is being inside huddled around the fire.

Back in town, our family run dining room continues to thrive and get busier as spring approaches and special events and celebrations fill the calendar at the Shaffer Hotel.

Yet another outstanding Friday catfish dinner complete, accompanied by Wheel of Fortune on the Big Screen and an acoustic duo strumming away on stage. We actually ran out of the main entree, just wait till we introduce the chaparral burgers made with local beef and ground bacon – yummy.

Settling into an entirely new and completely different surroundings has offered a lifestyle not easily described fully to my friends and family back in CA, yet I am enjoying this experience of rural America so much that I have no desire to return home to be near the beach or fight the crowds and traffic jams.

With my new focus for acquiring some tree filled pasture land with mountain spring water access, a durable 4X4 pickup, a Stihl chain saw, a functional trailer for towing just about everything, a rifle / shot gun combo, a new pair of cowboy boots for weekend functions and last but not least, a felt cowboy hat that is far more functional and good looking than my tattered ball cap that says “Simplify”

Having the opportunity to meet and converse regularly with the neighboring ranchers has become my favorite pastime as we continue with our progress with The Ghost Lounge next door to the hotel. The opening of a new venue to serve up grass fed Black Angus rib-eye steak dinners, cold beer and New Mexico wines in this remote region of the state.

Offering a unique, comfortable location to relax, meet with friends, watch classic Western movies and further plan upcoming events that will involve the entire community will hopefully become the place to be here in Mountainair.

“Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.” ~ Anais Nin

Well my friends, it’s 6:30 on Sunday morning and I need to get downstairs to prep for the breakfast crowd and be ready for the guests who will be checking out our of the hotel, then we’re off to the Fiery Foods exposition and a knife and gun show in Albuquerque.

The clean up and repair of our restaurant continues with the installation of new floors in the dishwashing area tomorrow and with making room for the new the fire grill, pizza and convention ovens where we’ll be learning to bake pies of every variety and grilling steaks and chops to perfection.

Hope your weekend in as filled with as much fun as mine 😉

A coordinated effort

“Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.” ~ Issac Asimov

Shaffer Hotel Dining RoomWalking (just a little unaware) into the ownership transition and merger of two businesses in a small town community is far more complex than I had anticipated.

The coordination of the transfer of responsibility while maintaining continued operations as smoothly as possible is easier said than done.

These past few weeks have opened my eyes and heart to the need for evolutionary changeover more considerately handled with an awareness of the deep personal feelings along with familial and emotional ties. The many heart-felt associations with a family run business that has truly become a warm and welcoming fixture in this small, rural community is quite profound.

Amongst the several key individuals I now consider to be close friends in such a short period of time go out of their way to introduce me to the regulars, the outlying ranch owners, the mayor, the police chief, the best mechanics, the best construction workers and just recently are working their magic ways to get me connected with the sweetest and most beautiful women in the area.

“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” ~ Jane Goodall

My very own family could hardly do a better job connecting me to my new community and I am so very thankful for the people I have met and their efforts and compassion. The personality attributes of friendliness, being cordial, expressing open kindness and a willingness to listen to their stories is certainly paying off as I continue my desire to know personally the majority of the 900+ residents here.

To express my thankfulness for all that I am now involved with here would take far more than this brief description of my love for this country lifestyle. Those who are active in the community with its one small grocery store, the new and rather bizarre Family Dollar store, pitiful gas station, two restaurants, two motels and 14 churches have been extremely pleasant and supportive.

This an amazing place full of promise, of hope and the potential to rebuild a community at the crossroads of two highways in the very center of the state. Having learned about the many different personalities that pass through for a night or two are the most colorful characters I have ever met. The mere fact that we can provide clean, comfortable rooms in a historic hotel that has a friendly and welcoming cafe next door is a big deal.

With “the season” and warmer weather just around the corner, I am busy with connecting with past event clients as well as the planning of new activities and community festivals. There are weddings already planned in our garden setting next door, music festivals in the works and a myriad of activities that include, but are not limited to rodeos, church gatherings, country and western music lessons, art shows, antique shows, wine tastings and chili competitions.

I wake each morning with an anticipation of all that can be in such a small, remote town. It is my new home and I am feeling blessed by my decision to involve myself with such great people, families and what I can honestly admit are more true “characters” than you can imagine.

From the black smith to the barber, I am simply known as Mr. Ed and for once in my life I feel honored to be called the same name as a very special and talented talking horse.

This post commemorates my 100th blog entry and you can rest assured that there is at the very least 100 more stored in my heart and mind. Best wishes and get out the and wander a little…

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