Thursday, September 20, 2012

Santa Fe Cafe closing causes howls of despair

Santa Fe Café, a small, locally owned restaurant that has featured locally grown foods, has lost its lease and is closing at the end of October.  The building in which it's located will undergo major renovation.  Owner-operator Kip Laramie, who's 60 years young, isn't positioned to put out the large amount of money necessary to set up Santa Fe Café in a new space.

Losing Santa Fe Café is a major loss to Rosslyn. Santa Fe Café has been serving food in Rosslyn for 24 years and is Rosslyn's longest-running restaurant.  Owner-operator Kip Laramie patronized local farmer markets to secure ingredients for his locavore specials.  He also has been extremely generous in supporting Rosslyn civic life.  For example, Laramie donated chili and hot cocoa to warm up Rosslyn's Light Up event, and also found time to serve the food personally.   This past July Santa Fe Café donated 50% of a special night's dinner sales, which amounted to over $1,000, to Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC).  Santa Fe Café has regularly donated food for the Radnor-Ft. Myer Heights Civic Association's holiday party for low-income Rosslyn families.   In addition, Laramie has been serving as co-chair of the Partnership for a Healthier Arlington and as chair of the Homeless Services Committee of the Rosslyn Business Improvement District.

Many persons testify to Santa Fe Café's excellent food.  One commenter at Arlnow described Santa Fe Café as "my favorite place for salsa in the area."  Another commenter described Santa Fe Café as having "the best margaritas in the DC area."  The Ode Street Tribune considers Santa Fe Café's lightly steamed Swiss Chard to be the best Swiss Chard dish east of the Mississippi.

The fate of Santa Fe Café's business assets isn't clear.  Will the secret recipe for its special salsa be sold?  Who will acquire the knowledge behind its local specials and Hatch chile features?  Santa Fe Café did well in a tough Rosslyn restaurant market.  Another restaurant would be smart to seek to imitate Santa Fe Café's success.

Laramie characteristically is concerned about his employees.  The average tenure of across his current employees is 14 years, and 3 out of 5 of the employees from its beginning are still with the restaurant.  Many businesses, especially news organizations, don't treat their employees with sufficient respect and appreciation.  (^And it should be added, not all employees are as hard-working, honest, and loyal as Santa Fe Café's employees -ed.)  Laramie is keen to find good, new jobs for his employees.

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