Santa Fe, Frozen in Time

Santa Fe, Frozen in Time

Santa Fe, Frozen in Time

 

I arrived in Santa Fe early on May 23, 1971. I remember it like it was yesterday.

I drove in from Las Vegas, NM, where I had toured Highlands University for a NM State teacher’s credential. At the time, I knew that I wanted to reside in New Mexico. Through years of college friendships and familial bonds in western New Mexico, I had developed close ties to the state. I was 23.

 

Day 1: Santa Fe Plaza, 1971

While passing the College of Santa Fe, I stopped, went in, and discovered that they had a teacher’s credential program. I told them my educational background and they accepted me into their summer program right on the spot. Just like that. No security checks, no contacting my university. The old days.

The same day, I opened my checking account on the historic Santa Fe plaza at First National Bank. No Homeland Security, background check, or tax ID number needed – just money and a signature. Nearly 44 years later, I still have the same checking account number.

santa-fe-obelisk-fall
At the time, the plaza was open to traffic on all sides. There were shoe and clothing stores, pharmacies, a barbershop, and a flower shop. I don’t recall a single gallery. Gas stations were situated catty-corner to the plaza on two sides, and the central obelisk still spoke of “savage natives.” This was before the word, “savage” was chiseled off.

There were only 3 or 4 realtors at the time, and I found a place on Cerro Gordo through the Richard Mares Agency. We put down our deposit and our last month’s rent, and moved in later that same afternoon. No credit checks on Credit Karma, no references to call. Just me, my wife, and our new home.

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Even with its modern changes, the history of Santa Fe remains captivating etched in stone.

Day 2: A Different Santa Fe

The next morning I was driving on St. Michael’s Drive, which was a still a two-lane street surround by mostly vacant land, when I heard my name on the radio! The since-departed Santa Fe Welcome Wagon was welcoming my wife and me to Santa Fe. They even mentioned some factoids about our lives that I had shared with the realtor.

Late that evening, my grandfather died in Dallas. Since we didn’t have cell phones, and it took a while to get a phone line, my father’s secretary began trying to locate us. The second realtor she called was Richard Mares, and he informed her of our whereabouts. As a courtesy, he also called the Santa Fe Police Department on our behalf. Soon after an officer pulled up to our house and respectfully informed me of my grandfather’s passing. He also told me where the nearest pay phone could be found, so I could call home.

When I think back on Santa Fe, it’s hard to imagine that there were more pawnshops and trading posts than galleries. I vividly remember Bob Ward’s “oldest trading post” on San Francisco, and The Pink Adobe and The Bull Ring were the only two “fancy” restaurants downtown. Can you imagine?
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Those were the times, not really that far-gone, that welcomed me here and successfully beckoned me to stay.

Let us be your Santa Fe Welcome Wagon

We hope we can captivate you the same way Santa Fe captivated me all those years ago.
Get Your Kicks – On Route 66

Get Your Kicks – On Route 66

Route 66 actually came through Santa Fe at one time, quite a while back. That was before WW2 when most highways led right into town squares connecting towns across the nation. Now this iconic US Highway runs “2,000 miles all the way” and follows a much straighter shot from Chicago to L.A. with stops along the way to St. Louis, Oklahoma City, Amarillo, Gallup (“New Mexico”) Flagstaff (“Arizona”) Winona (“Don’t forget Winona!”) Kingsman, (“Arizona”), Barstow and San Bernadino. These are the bare bone lyrical highlights of the equally iconic “Route 66” written by Bobby Troup in 1946, just one year after the end of WW2. The year before America launched the most phenomenal boom in her economy, quickly producing jobs, home and automobile ownership, disposable income, natty clothes and “gas money.” This song has to be a part of American history if Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Chuck Berry and the Rolling Stones can all record it.

Deep down in the American psyche, an inherent American mantra of “go West young man” emerged from the dusty times of the 19th century into post-war America. So when legendary Bobby Troup wrote this song in 1946, there were still open spaces, an open road, a sense of freedom from society, and the possible future of some day pulling out of a gas station in your 1960 Corvette with a buddy roaring west out of Gallup, New Mexico. It makes me shiver even still, especially when I get behind the wheel of my Smartcar and head off to Whole Foods!

Songwriter Troup hit the nail on the head in 1946. But more amazingly, his lyrics envisioned the future of our country, our love affair with the automobile and the open road. And he penned this song before television’s 1960 show “Route 66”. It is impossible for me with the inherent limits of a blog to do justice to the imagery and history of this highway; better just try googling up Route 66, where you can see restored gas stations, motels, cafes, souvenir stores, side-road attractions, new and old. I cannot list the hundreds of incredibly interesting historical, architectural, culinary, hospitality, educational and pure visual experiences still awaiting you today on Route 66, established 1926!

Road trips. When I was growing up in the very early 1950’s, some of my most vivid memories are of my family’s road trips in a Woody all over the country. I swear it was a Woody and have pictures to prove it… but we were not surfers in Dallas… it was just the first “station wagon” made, and my Dad knew they were cool, with or without surfboards sticking out the back. As we traveled though each state, and most were along Route 66, we would buy a glue-on souvenir of that state, and glue them right on the rear windows. They were so colorful, probably full of lead, and you could see through them from the inside. You often saw folks driving by with their back two side-windows covered in these multicolored mementos, eyeing your collection with keen interest.

vintage-woody

So, today if you ever plan to motor west, swing up from Route 66 to Santa Fe, our home, and visit one of the most unique and beautiful towns in the US, established 1607, your first stop has to be the Inn on the Alameda. It is a beautiful oasis of comfort where once the old west stopped at the end of the Old Santa Fe Trail. Even if you are still traveling west on that day and just passing through, stop and have a toast to America’s “Mother Road” at our fabulous Agoyo Lounge. Open for dinner and cocktails 5p.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily.

We hope you book your next stay with us soon!

Stop and have a toast to America’s “Mother Road” at our fabulous Agoyo Lounge. Open for dinner and cocktails 5p.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily.

My First Opera

My First Opera

It was in the early 1980’s when I first attended the Santa Fe Opera, one of the most beautiful and most unique opera houses in the world. It is, perhaps, a side effect of coming of age during the 1960s that I can no longer remember exactly which opera I first saw, but the setting itself has always made an impression on me.

John Crosby, a musical genius from Manhattan (recently biographized by Santa Fe writer Craig Smith in A Vision of Voices: John Crosby and the Santa Fe Opera), had a dream of an outdoor summer opera company that would take advantage of the countless performers, musicians, conductors, and technicians who were annually idle when the Metropolitan Opera in New York City closed for the summer. He found the San Juan Ranch outside of Santa Fe and with his family was able to purchase what would become the location. He found the perfect acoustical setting and the rest is history.

 

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What I remember most from my first opera was the setting.

The house is designed so the brilliantly dying light of the setting sun comes straight through the open but covered stage, a stunning backdrop for any opera.

Photo credit wikimedia commons

To the East, each evening, the image of the reddening Sangre de Cristo mountains attests to the appropriateness of their name. The otherworldly red of the foothills struck the Spanish settlers as evidence of the divine, the blood of Christ made manifest. It is these features that shelter the bowl of the opera house providing an appropriately awe-inspiring landscape upon which the fine arts of mankind can play themselves out. But I digress.

Book your room for any Opera showing now ~ receive a Split of Champagne & 2 slices of Opera cake to enjoy!

Since that first production, I try to see at least one opera per season, always the one recommended by Nancy Zeckendorf, my close friend and co-founding director of the Lensic Performing Arts Center. Nancy’s influence on me cannot be described. It was she who brought me onto the board of the opera in 1986, first to run the business fund drive, later as treasurer and chairman of the facilities committee.

Even still, I cannot remember my first opera’s name! It was a board-known fact that I never developed the deep understanding and knowledge of opera. Nevertheless, it was just as board-known that my enthusiasm and drive more than made up for my other shortcomings.

Besides, I was surrounded by people who knew everything about opera. My speech and drama background from college drove my interests more to the physical plant side of the performing arts, and therein lay the key to my interest in helping create Santa Fe’s finest and most versatile venue: the Lensic Performing Arts Center. Along with Bill and Nancy Zeckendorf, Patricia McFate, and Alexis Girard, the dream came true, a dream that is much more fitting to my strengths as a builder and developer (like Bill).

The Lensic offers such a variety of programming. To name a few: the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, the Lannan and Santa Fe Institute lecture series, the New Mexico Jazz Festival, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, the Met Live, and Performance Santa Fe. All valuable cultural institutions, all as worthwhile as the opera, and all of which I’ve attended.

As for opera, I have seen dozens since that first one now forgotten, and I’ve always been impressed and had a wonderful evening. And what it’s taught me is how communal and convivial an outing it is—before, during, and after. Operagoers—regulars and first-timers—typically turn a night at the opera into a nightlong experience, with drinks or dinner beforehand (the opening night tailgate at the Santa Fe Opera is legendary), food and libations at intermission (though moderately), or dinner and/or drinks afterward.

Which is why I heartily recommend our own Agoyo Lounge as the perfect complement—to the opera or any of the many other cultural events going on throughout Santa Fe. Come in for an early dinner (starting at 5:30–please call for reservations) or an aperitif beforehand, or if it’s a shorter performance, come by for a late dinner or digestif.

Whatever your taste in the arts, the tastes at the Agoyo are unsurpassed and you will always be pleased, just as I have at the many operas I have attended. I just wish I could remember that first one. No matter. What I do remember vividly is the first time I watched lightning and giant black rainstorms rolling into town past the SFO stage, which now, like the entire audience, is fortunately covered from the elements.

Book your room for any Opera showing now ~ receive a Split of Champagne & 2 slices of Opera cake to enjoy!

Disrupting the Disrupters: Taking on Airbnb and the Short-Termers—Part One

mapAt first, we were like most everyone else—inside and outside the hotel and bed-and-breakfast industries: Airbnb? What’s that? Even just two years ago, Mayor Javier Gonzales didn’t know what it was (he’s now up to speed). It seemed like little more than a glorified version of Craigslist’s housing section—yet another internet distraction that overnight, it seemed, turned into a phenomenon, a behemoth, then a mainstay. After all, VRBO had been around longer, and that had barely registered on anyone’s radar, either.

Fast forward to 2015, to a mere seven years since its first post (in 2008, when its founders listed a futon in a spare room of theirs—on, yes, Craigslist). Today, there isn’t anyone in the hotel world who doesn’t know of Airbnb; and most every traveler coming to Santa Fe knows about it, too.

And despite a record year for the hotel industry last year (when the industry overall broke records for occupancy and rates), Airbnb, the largest home sharing network in the world, with over two million listings globally, had established its disruptive presence in the City Different. Firmly and painfully.

And yet.

As quickly as we all seemed to panic, the panic has shifted into something altogether more . . . inspiring.

Because as dire as it all seemed—only months ago—this whole deal . . . it may indeed have given us hoteliers a shot in the arm. A wake-up call.

First, though, a little more context—and some of the other issues, perhaps even bigger ones, surrounding Airbnb.

“This is a more challenging event in the history of the lodging industry than almost any other.”

So said Bjorn Hanson, clinical professor of the Jonathan M. Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management at New York University to New York Times business reporter Elaine Glusac as recently as this past July.

That challenge, as we at the Inn on the Alameda (and other hotels here in Santa Fe) saw it, was: Airbnb, and the people listing space on Airbnb, are reaping the benefits of good results—i.e., making money—without having to pay the costs—i.e., taxes.

fingerAirbnb’s response has been: these people listing on our network are not hotel people. They’re just reg’lar folks trying to earn a little extra. Or, as Jan Freitag, senior vice president of Global Business Development and Marketing for STR, which tracks supply and demand for the hotel industry, told us: “Is Airbnb bad? Is it the big bad wolf? The answer is no. It’s another lodging option. Airbnb’s stance is: We’re growing the pie. We allow people who’d never be able to stay in downtown Chicago the chance to stay there. And then they can infuse money into the local economy with the money they save.”

Which is all well and good—maybe—except that, it’s kinda not.

“Traditional hospitality providers like hotels and bed and breakfasts pay hospitality taxes where they are required by law, so it’s only fair economically that hosts also pay a hospitality tax,” as Murray Cox explained to us in an email. Cox, an Australian software engineer and photographer who now lives in Brooklyn, founded the Nicky Silver-ish insideairbnb.com, a site that purportedly shows every Airbnb listing in cities from New York to San Francisco. He’s a datactivist (a data activist). “In most cities, hospitality taxes contribute to city infrastructure, cultural events, and tourism marketing, all services that a hospitality business like an Airbnb host should contribute to. The major impact on a community that is not collecting taxes from Airbnb is unfair competition and the lost revenue. However, taxes are only part of the story.”

(More on this last part later.)

This is why one B&B owner here in town has been trying to sue Airbnb, and why this person has been trying to rally others in Santa Fe’s B&B and hotel industry to take his side. “Everything they’ve been doing is illegal,” he said anonymously. “It’s basically a 500-room hotel that doesn’t pay lodging tax. These companies have been operating with complete indifference to the law.”

Well, yes. Until, that is, the first of this month.

That’s when the City’s new ordinance on short-term rentals went into effect.

“I’d heard that Airbnb was interested in a partnership with taxing entities, so I reached out,” said Randy Randall, executive director of Tourism Santa Fe. After initially getting through to no one at Airbnb (they have no phone number, nor anyone on their site as a point of contact), Randall had the city attorney threaten Airbnb with elimination of short-term rentals entirely—“That got their attention,” said Randall. “And since then, they’ve been very cooperative, very helpful, and they’ve given us good input on the ordinance.” (Funny how that works.)

bearsAnd even though it’s a voluntary collection agreement, “The ordinance,” according to Santa Fean David Loeb, a senior equity analyst covering real estate for Robert W. Baird & Co., “has real teeth. The plan is to use the funding source to do the actual enforcing. It’s a really smart thing, and it’s not all that different from what other cities have done. And the Land Use Department is serious about enforcing it.”

Airbnb, then, adds to the tax, and then collects the funds on behalf of its hosts. If any enforcing is needed, it’ll fall to the Land Use Department (which we’d never heard of till this ordinance) to go all Sheriff of Nottingham on the offenders.

But Loeb’s one who thinks this’ll do the trick. “They don’t want somebody to die in a fire in a casita.”

That’s the other part of the ordinance: those listing on Airbnb have to register with the City that they’re opening up a room, or their home or whatever, for money. Once they register, they look all that much more reliable reputable; and safe. And accountable (should something go, not so much wrong but weird and/or hellish: check out airbnbhell.com and/or sharebetter.org for some real doozies).

And although Randall and the City won’t be getting any itemized histories on who might owe and how much—they’ll just be getting a lump check—“Right now,” said Randall, “we’re getting nothing.” So something, obviously, is better than nothing. Plus, “Because of the registration requirement, we’ll know who is working [who’s listing and registered] and who isn’t [registered at all but still listing]. We can now be smart about it instead of being blind. This shadow business has been brought into the light and now they’ll pay their fair share.”

And as Loeb pointed out, “What the City has done is thread the needle, to try to be fair to everybody.”

Not that everybody’s happy. “But,” as Loeb added, “it will level the playing field.”

What it really is is a first step. And a decent one. “I don’t believe the future of hotels is doomed by the introduction of Airbnb,” wrote Cox. “We are simply in an unregulated phase of Airbnb—as time goes by, cities and communities will educate themselves about Airbnb, and find ways to effectively regulate them.”

This, then, is that first bit of regulation. And as much as Airbnb has put the hotel industry on notice, the time is coming for Airbnb as well. If for no other reason than it’s our turn to disrupt the disrupter.

disruptEven so, as Freitag so cheerfully stated, “It’s hard to say that Airbnb doesn’t impact lodging. But it is also fair to say that it doesn’t impact the industry as much as they think.”

Which is how we now have the opportunity to disrupt Airbnb. If it’s true, as analysts like Freitag says, that today’s travelers want more local flair and experiential vacations—“If people want more couches in the lobby and a more social experience, then the hotels should start adding those”—and, as Hanson also told the Times, “guests want a more genuine experience and a place that’s more reflective of local culture”—well, we’ve been all doing that here at the Inn on the Alameda since we opened 30 years ago.

One: We’re not a chain. Two: We love connecting with our guests—and they love making that connectivity with us. Three: We’re authentic. We’re rooted in the culture of Santa Fe, downtown Santa Fe. We’re also part of our community and our neighborhood. It’s why we love what we do, and why people love staying here.

All reasons why we recently decided to list a couple of our rooms on Airbnb. To prove to ourselves, if not the typical Airbnb-er, that we’re exactly what they’re looking for. Only more.

 

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