ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The historic Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm was teeming with activity lately — and a lot of it was in places other than the newly built guest rooms and cozy Campo restaurant where a brisk breakfast trade was underway.
While undeniably important to the bottom line, the business is far more than the inn’s 50-room boutique-style hotel and breakfast and dinner service at Campo, the newly renovated restaurant/dining room, said Matthew Rembe, the property’s co-owner and executive director.
Rembe recently invited the Journal to the renowned Los Ranchos inn to show off $10 million in renovations that wrapped up in September, and he spoke about the five different businesses operating at the property.
He proudly showed off some of the changes at the Campo dining room and kitchen, which is helmed by chef Jonathan Perno, whose staff serves produce grown on the farm or by a host of local farmers and ranchers. “You won’t fine pre-shopped vegetables in the meals,” said Rembe. In the winter months, the farm-to-table restaurant turns to greenhouses to deliver vegetables and tweaks menus to reflect seasonal tastes and ingredients.
In the dining area, Rembe’s architect suggested recycling old building materials from Santa Fe’s Bishop’s Lodge into dining tables, and ceilings from the old Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas, N.M. also were used in Campo. Those touches of the old, very much in keeping with the Rembe family’s commitment to sustainability, are blended with modern conveniences, including upgraded bathrooms and a spacious kitchen, which is visible to patrons.
While his parents, Armin and Penny Rembe — the inn’s founders — are by no means inactive or uninvolved, Matt Rembe has been a driving force behind the recent business diversification on the 25-acre North Valley property, famous for its 1930s John Gaw Meem Territorial Revival Style architecture and more recently, its lavender products and organic cuisine.
He led the charge to get Bernalillo County to approve industrial revenue bonds for Los Poblanos, which expanded its manufacturing and distribution of lavender products from the company’s organic farm. The IRBs will be funded by private investors, and the company will able to take advantage of certain tax breaks as part of the package. That enabled Los Poblanos to expand its hotel and restaurant and manufacturing facility, refurbish its retail shop and create a new reception area, all of which resulted in 20 new jobs. The property had six employees and six guest rooms in 2004; there are now 143 employees on staff.
Rembe led visitors to a manufacturing facility, where small batches of handmade soaps, salves, bath soaps, spa accessories and other Los Poblanos-made products were being packed and shipped out in advance of the holiday season. Garden tools, agricultural books, cookbooks, seeds, and kitchen linens are also on offer on the company’s website.
Los Poblanos also has brick-and-mortar partners for its products — both here and abroad. One is Isetan, “one of the fanciest” Tokyo department stores, said Rembe. Los Poblanos products now grace the shelves of the store. “To them, New Mexico products are as exotic as it gets,” he said.
Closer to home, the farm shop is selling some of the inn’s fresh-baked goods like baguettes and condiments, such as honeys, green chile jams and chile-infused oils. Rounding out the merchandise are cheeses and wines, which Rembe hopes will bring in shoppers from surrounding neighborhoods, as well as restaurant patrons.
“These items are just not exclusive to our guests,” said Rembe, who’s eager to cast a wider net.
Management also has plans to offer a social hour in which light snacks and drinks are served in the dining room bar.
And Rembe wants to emphasize more agritourism events at the property during the growing season. Wedding parties are also booking rooms at the inn and looking to Campo to cater their affairs, he added.