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Gazpacho Restaurant, a popular eatery among locals in Durango, is sold to employees

Matt Arias gives up business to focus on career in real estate
Gazpacho Restaurant on Durang’s South Side had been family-owned since 1991 but recently changed ownership. The new owners, Sadie Christensen and brothers Brennan and Shane McManamon, who all work for the restaurant, plan to keep the menu the same but enhance the drink options. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Gazpacho Restaurant is under new ownership after former owner Matt Arias sold the establishment to three of his staff members, Sadie Christensen and brothers Brennan and Shane McManamon.

The transition of ownership happened on March 1, ending Arias’ 10-year run as the owner and his 25-year career with the restaurant.

“Our ultimate goal always was to own a restaurant. It's been a dream of mine forever,” said new co-owner Brennan.

Shane promised Brennan that if he ever got the opportunity to run his own restaurant, he would help him run it. After working at Gazpacho for eight years, Brennan got that opportunity when Arias decided to sell.

Arias is the son of the original owner and founder, James Arias, who started the restaurant in 1991. James Arias was a well-known restaurateur in Durango and opened the Ore House with his business partner Bill “Beatle” Abshagen in 1972. However, James Arias grew up in Albuquerque, and wanted to offer authentic New Mexican cuisine in Durango, which inspired him to open Gazpacho Restaurant.

Matt Arias took over the restaurant in 2012 after the death of his father and saw the restaurant through the COVID-19 pandemic. He sold the restaurant because he was tired of working in the industry and wanted to direct his focus on being a real estate agent who specializes in commercial properties.

Gazpacho Restaurant had been family owned since 1991 and has recently changed ownership. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Arias said he began studying to become a real estate agent after the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Arias owns the building Gazpacho is in and was interested in entering property management.

“After seeing what the lockdown did to the restaurant industry, I decided to jump into real estate with both feet and join the Keller Williams office here in town,” Arias said.

Arias described the restaurant as having that special “Cheers” effect in which restaurant employees are familiar with their customers.

“It's always been a family restaurant where people feel comfortable,” he said. “Even in the middle of the tourist season, the locals are at their spots.”

Diners eat at Gazpacho Restaurant on Wednesday. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Brennan and Shane have been Gazpacho employees for a combined 13 years, and Arias said he can’’t think of a better team to take over the restaurant. The brothers have both been working in restaurants since they were 12 years old, and Christensen has been working at Gazpacho for about six years.

In addition, Brennan and Shane’s father, John McManamon, is the restaurant’s insurance agent.

Arias said Brennan has always been a hard worker and has stuck with the restaurant during hard times when the pandemic hit.

The pair will bring new energy to the restaurant that will help it grow in coming years, he said.

“Right now they’re really focused on guerrilla marketing, social media, word-of-mouth and just getting their face out there,” Arias said.

Steve Mestas, kitchen manager at Gazpacho Restaurant on Wednesday. The new owners say the menu will stay the same. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Arias said the new owners are likely upgrading the bar’s drink menu as Shane has a lot of experience working with bars, including managing a bar in Missouri.

“They’re just updating and modernizing the drinks and the margaritas,” he said. “They’re bringing in new recipes for the drinks. But the food is going to remain true to the New Mexican cuisine.”

Brennan said there will be a new drink called the “mez-garita,” which is a margarita made with mezcal rather than tequila. The drink will feature Dos Hombres Mezcal, which is owned by “Breaking Bad” stars Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul.

In addition to drinks, new ownership is bringing back table service to Gazpacho. Previously, Gazpacho had been using counter service since the start of the pandemic.

“Now that we have the staff that we currently do, we’re switching back to traditional service and that will be well-received because I know there’s a lot of people that dislike that counter service,” Brennan said.

Sherise Romero, a bartender at Gazpacho Restaurant, mixes a margarita on Wednesday. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

He said when the hotel is built on East Second Avenue between Fourth and Fifth streets, that the restaurant will start offering breakfast.

His plan is to offer cocktails like a Bloody Mary and offer a traditional New Mexican breakfasts.

“There’ll be like omelets and eggs with green chili, all sorts of stuff like that,” Brennan said.

Arias said the brothers will have the energy to take the restaurant to the next level.

Arias said he will not be involved with the restaurant moving forward. However, he said he will participate in the restaurant’s annual chili roast during late summer.

tbrown@durangoherald.com

Gazpacho Restaurant is well known for its green chili dishes. Former owner Matt Arias said he will continue to participate in the restaurant’s annual chili roasting event. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)
Avery Lazare places an order Wednesday as Rustle Lee, the general manager of Gazpacho Restaurant, works in the background. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)
Sherise Romero, a bartender at Gazpacho Restaurant, pours a margarita on Wednesday. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)


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