ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A quarter of a century is a long time to be alive if you are a local restaurant, but that’s the mark The Range Cafe is about to hit.
“It seems like yesterday,” said co-owner Matt DiGregory.
Twenty-five years ago, the popular local restaurant began in a “56-seat, funky old adobe building on the main street of Bernalillo,” DiGregory said in a news release. Now, it is “a local landmark.”
A silver anniversary celebration will be held on Sept 5 and 6 at all four of The Range locations, with specially priced menu items, cake, prizes and giveaways that will include gift cards and a night in Santa Fe.
Most new restaurants fail in the first year, and among those that do survive, nearly 70 percent fail within three to five years, according to Perry Group International, a restaurant and hotel investment and management group.
In the last two-and-a-half decades, The Range Cafe’s parent company, Home on the Range, has expanded to four, soon to be five, locations and opened two additional restaurant concepts, the Standard Diner on Central Avenue at Arno SE and Freight House Kitchen + Tap on Camino del Pueblo Road in Bernalillo.
The Range restaurants employ 450 people, and the newest on the West Side will employ an additional 50 when it opens in September.
DiGregory is proud of his flagship restaurant, and even the down times seem to hold a special place for him.
His favorite memory involves the fire at the Bernalillo location in 1995, which forced him to change locations and nearly close.
“At the time, it was devastating, but it ended up being the best thing that ever happened,” he said. “The way the community came out and supported us — it was pretty magical.”
The Range offers a wide variety of food, from New Mexican cuisine such as enchiladas and green chile stew, to comfort foods like chicken fried steak and meatloaf.
The restaurants are decorated by local artists, and DiGregory said he feels “very fortunate with the people we get to work on our interiors.”
Future expansion in Albuquerque is a little bit in question, DiGregory said. While he loves the city, the price of liquor licences has become prohibitive.
“I’ve been approached three or four times in the last couple of months (about new locations), but I can’t do it until I get the cash flow going” on the West Side restaurant, said DiGregory.