Monday, October 26, 2009
One-On-One with Dorothy Garza
By Autumn Gray
Assistant Business Editor
The Basics: Born Dorothy Ann Garza in Chicago but grew up in Austin; attended the University of Texas for 2 1/2 years with a focus on business; married Larry on Sept. 6, 1964; daughter Shannon and son Mark; no pets.
Position: Co-owner with her husband of The Frontier Restaurant and four Golden Pride restaurants, as well as several blocks of property on and around Central Avenue.
What You Didn't Know: "This is silly: I didn't kiss Larry on our first date. I don't think I kissed any guys on our first date. I've never said that to anyone."
It's a few days after Christmas 1970. Dorothy and Larry Rainosek have just moved to Albuquerque from Austin, with two young children and a U-Haul. Their goal is to open a restaurant across from the university.
Dorothy already thinks it's a mistake.
"Albuquerque had this horrible, horrible cold spell," she says from the "rug room" of what is now the landmark Frontier Restaurant. "It was 10 days of zero and below, and I thought, 'What have I done? I've brought our children to this God-forsaken country.' All the grass was dead, and in Texas it's all green. I didn't realize it was just dormant. I thought it was dead. So it was a rude awakening."
The city thawed, as did the pipes to the one-room building the couple purchased at the corner of Central and Cornell, and by Feb. 10, 1971, the Frontier Restaurant was open with 99 seats.
"The first day we only did $58, and we needed $300 to break even. But by June we were doing well enough," Dorothy said. The menu consisted of hamburgers, ham and grilled cheese sandwiches, breakfast Nos. 1-4 and enchiladas, among a few other items.
There was no green chile — or red, for that matter — until about fall of that year when an employee introduced them to the New Mexico staple.
"We knew nothing about green chile, and people were asking for this green stuff. So we had to learn, and it was our general manager of the Golden Pride (formerly Golden Fried) — he and his friend roasted chile and brought it one day for us to try," said Dorothy, who had grown up on Tex-Mex, schnitzel and sausage in a household run by a Hispanic father who drove a Yellow Cab for a living and a homemaker mother of German descent.
Between the Frontier and the couple's four Golden Pride locations, Dorothy says, they now go through about 200,000 pounds of roasted, seeded green chile per year.
"I don't think we could have imagined using that much," she said. "In our wildest dreams we never would have thought green chile could make that much difference."'
Today, the couple employs 250 among their five restaurants. Dorothy says she does not know their annual revenue, but "it's a lot."
With their earnings, the Rainoseks are two of the city's most generous benefactors, donating time and money to a variety of groups and causes, including the New Mexico Symphony, the Albuquerque Museum, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and the University of New Mexico Lobo Club. The couple sponsor three Presidential Scholarships at UNM and three scholarships for the UNM School of Architecture & Planning among others supporting local students and athletes.
In recognition of the Rainoseks' generosity, the Association of Fundraising Professionals will be presenting them with the Outstanding Leader in Philanthropy award at a luncheon on Philanthropy Day, Nov. 18.
Q: Why is education one of the primary efforts that you and Larry support?
A: Well, I think education has to be paramount for New Mexico to ever move up the ladder as far as getting industry here, to be able to have what other states have. ... But I think to have a well-rounded institution that's not all academics. Having sports is part of the college life that I grew up with. Coming from Texas, it's all in our blood. It's part of our DNA maybe.
Q: Did you and Larry meet at UT?
A: No, I was in high school. I was working one summer (as a waitress) in a restaurant that was called The Plantation, and Larry was, I believe, an assistant manager at the time for a different restaurant (Holiday House), and he would come in for breakfast. He says that the time he came in and asked for my phone number, he only came in for a cup of coffee, and tipped me a dime which doesn't sound like a lot, except he does remind me that coffee was a dime, so it was a 100 percent tip.
Q: How did you decide to name the restaurant The Frontier?
A: My husband's great idea was to call it The Burger Barn because he thought we'd be known for our burgers, not realizing breakfast was very important, or to name it M&S because we had Mark and Shannon. I said, 'Larry, what if we have another child? Then what are you gonna do?' So that one was definitely out. I didn't like Burger Barn. I just thought that's too country maybe. But in Texas there was a restaurant chain called Jim's Frontier. I just thought, well, you know this is like a frontier. We didn't know too much about New Mexico other than we had driven through on our way to Las Vegas some years prior to that. It was kind of foreign like a frontier — although we didn't come in a covered wagon.
Q: All five rooms, walls and ceilings, of The Frontier are covered in art. Were you collectors before moving here?
A: Absolutely not. We were poor. To begin with, we had some wall space. We only had that one front room. It was just blank and we thought we could afford some prints. So we had some of Remington and some of the other cowboy artists back years ago. And then over a period of time they started to fade. And about that time an Indian by the name of Johnny Yazzie came by, and he could sell his original paintings for less than what we were paying for the prints. And then Fred Cleveland came by. And that's kind of how we got started.
Q: The Frontier had to deal with some crime issues for a while. How are things now?
A: There are still people who come, who cause problems, but not to the extent that we have had. When we were open the 24 hours we would have to have 10 to 12 security guards on Friday and Saturday nights. Plus we would have off-duty, overtime police that we would pay for also. We still have security. We have to have security, but it's not anything like what we have had. We'll get panhandlers still, and we'll get some of these people walking in off the street, but the crime is very little.
Q: When you're not working, what do you like to do?
A: We go to a lot of functions and the symphony and football games. We like to be involved. And we like to be at home. We have a nice home in the southeast near Four Hills. We live in Executive Hills. We're not there a lot. I like to go out to eat. I don't cook. Probably if we go out, my husband loves Italian food, and he's Czechoslovakian. Explain that. But we love Italian food. And we like good wines. We go to wine tastings. I like to shop — that's my hobby.
Q: Do you prefer green or red?
A: It depends what I'm having. On hamburgers and breakfast burritos, I prefer the green. If I'm eating enchiladas I like the red.