Jim Demosthenes grew up in a family of restaurateurs. His father opened the Plaza Diner in New Paltz, NY, just off the New York State Freeway, and imbued him with a love of dining.
He started in the business at the age of 14 working the graveyard shift from 4 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Deisings Bakery in Kingston, where he remained for six years.
He then partnered with David Weiss to run four Sante Fe restaurants: Sante Fe Tivoli near Bard College in Tivoli, NY, Sante Fe Uptown in Kingston, NY, Sante Fe Woodstock and Sante Fe Burger Bar in Rosendale, NY. owns with other partners two glaciers in the Hudson Valley.
Like Demosthenes, Weiss also has a lengthy restaurant resume, starting as a dishwasher at the Surf Club in Quogue, LI as a teenager.
But Demosthenes’ 23-year-old daughter Georgia lives in London, graduated from the London School of Economics and doesn’t seem destined to run a Mexican restaurant. Neither does his young daughter Elisabeth as she is in a Master of Science in Education program at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY and intends to become an elementary school teacher.
Weiss’ son Theo is in an Early College program at Simon’s Rock and Nikita is only 13 but has a passion for the arts, so it’s too early to say where their future lies and whether that includes the restaurant management.
What should be done to maintain the four Santé Fe restaurants since Demosthenes was 59 and Weiss, 58, when they retire?
The partners designed a succession plan for three employees from their three Santé Fe restaurants to become a third-party associate in each restaurant. Thus, Emily Venditti now owns 33% of Sante Fe Tivoli, Roxana Guerra owns 33% of Sante Fe Burger Bar and Kellyn Guerra (a cousin of Roxana), owns a third of Sante Fe Uptown.
They expect to appoint a managing partner for their Sante Fe Woodstock in the fall, which will make four co-owners.
He said the three women all had one thing in common: understanding hospitality. “They make customers as happy as possible, make them feel welcome, have a smile on their face and nothing can shake them,” he said.
Demosthenes said what prompted their plan was to “maintain the legacy of Sante Fe. The only way was for people within your organization to take over when you retire.” He calls it a five-year plan because by then he and his partner David will be ready to hang up their ownership status.
“I’ve been in the business for 40 years, and David is close to that,” he noted, suggesting it was time to take a break from running a restaurant.
“Our challenges are greater than ever, with the cost of our products and the cost of our payroll, even though we are lucky enough to run a successful business,” he said.
Having three operational partners has relieved his stress because his daughters have made it clear they have no interest in the restaurant business, a decision he and his wife Annie respect.
Kellyn was born in Guatemala and is a naturalized citizen while Emily grew up in upstate New York in Esopus, and Roxana’s parents are from El Salvador, although she was born in the United States. United.
“Each paid a fraction of the percentage they owed,” Demosthenes explained. When the time comes when the two partners are ready to retire, “they will finalize the purchase of their percentage and agree with the partners on the purchase, over time, of the remaining part of the business as well. “, did he declare.
Each of the three employees rose through the restaurant ranks, starting with entry-level jobs. “They went from being very hardworking employees with fixed schedules and schedules to being owner-managers,” Demosthenes claimed.
Both Venditti and Roxana Guerra started out as servers, having had previous experience in the restaurant business, then moved on to bartending. “Finally, we saw what great things we had in them: hard-working, smart, reliable, friendly, and so we promoted them to managers at Sante Fe Uptown,” Demosthenes said.
Kellyn Guerra started as a bus when she was younger and after a few years moved into service and then into management. Having excelled so much, she was appointed Managing Partner.
Each handles management issues. If the alarm goes off in the middle of the night, one of them is called to deal with it. Or when a service person needs to enter the restaurant at 8 a.m., Venditti or one of the Guerra arrives early with the key to let them in.
If a staff member calls in sick, one of the co-owners lines up to help the chef. Everything you need to get the job done. They also manage orders and learn how to order the best ingredients, and “learn the ins and outs of hiring and staffing, while paying attention to payroll,” Demosthenes noted.
Demosthenes also raised a concern he had with them since each of them is married, getting married, or soon to be engaged. And if they had children, would they be able to maintain their commitment to Santé Fe? Each assured him that it was his livelihood and that they would hold out.
Both partners are not yet ready to retire. But Demosthenes planned in five years to become a restaurant consultant and help new restaurants get started.
He acknowledges that the future of Sante Fe and other restaurants will not be easy. “I think about that all the time. How are the three going to keep this going? It will be a challenge.