ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Erin Wade’s salad-centric Vinaigrette eateries in New Mexico and Texas lately have turned the focus on what she calls “soul satisfying” soups and chowders.
Wade, meanwhile, is also turning her focus on a new line of culinary pursuits. Already having opened three Vinaigrette restaurants in Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Austin, along with Modern General in Santa Fe, she’s now looking to expand her fledgling restaurant empire in the Duke City.
Wade has signed a lease in the West Downtown neighborhood to open her second Modern General. And next door to that will be a new concept called Feel Good, a wine-focused bar and eatery. Both establishments will be across from Manzano Day School in the Country Club Plaza at 1720 Central SW. Close by is Albuquerque Vinaigrette, a modern, colorful place that just celebrated its five-year anniversary.
The culinary go-getter describes Modern General as Vinaigrette’s sister company.
Modern General, a stylish cafe and home goods shop, will focus on breakfasts, healthy bowl dishes, juices and an “incredible coffee program.” Wade said she is shooting for a late spring 2018 opening in an area she expects will be transformed by Albuquerque Rapid Transit and other urban redevelopment. “The cones are down. A lot of cool stuff is happening along Central,” she said.
With the ABQ “Vinny” just a quick sprint away at 1820 Central Avenue SW, Wade envisions a “nice trifecta” in the neighborhood and hopes to get all kinds of new folks through the doors— moms and kids, the business lunch crowd, happy hour habitues, and those seeking fine dining but without high prices. “We want the locations to be very much a part of the neighborhood’s day,” said Wade. “It’s also easier for me from a management and operations standpoint to have that concentration” in Albuquerque.
Wade is funding the expansion, including six-figure tenant improvements, in a couple of ways.
She bootstrapped her first enterprise in Santa Fe with help from family, a line of credit and a farm where most of the eateries’ produce is grown. In time, she was able to attract more serious financing and branch out, thanks mostly to the success of the Santa Fe Vinaigrette, a cash cow that has proved popular with both locals and visitors.
“It’s me and the bank (loans) at this point,” said Wade, adding that she plows profits back into the company to fund its continued growth.
Wade said she doesn’t have any outside investors and prefers to keep it that way, even though it means she wears multiple hats. “With private equity, you have a lot of new bosses,” said Wade.
“I love going to places that still have that texture and authenticity,” she added. “The problem is when a business hits a certain size, and it’s starts feeling plastic to me.”
Wade is striving to keep her business culture intact as the company grows — the enterprise is now up to 150 employees — and said she relies heavily on longtime managers as she tears up the road between locations or logs frequent flier points. “Most of them have grown up in the company, starting as cooks and servers,” she said.
And the growth just may continue, with speculation of a second Vinaigrette in Albuquerque. If a second store opens, it would likely be in the Northeast, confirmed Wade. “Super early discussions have taken place about a potential site, but we have a lot to occupy us on Central,” she said.