By Cassie McClure and Suzanne Michaels
Elsa Rodriguez doesn’t stop smiling when she talks about her 44 years at Ranchway Restaurant. She remembers when they had just opened the business and her 2-year-old son, Chico, still fit into the cupboards while she took orders. Now, he’s the head of the kitchen. “Now we’re here to support him,” she laughs.
Sitting in a corner of the restaurant with the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) Valley Drive road reconstruction in view behind her, well-wishers approach, eager to connect with their friend.
“She’s a jewel,” said Chris Cowan who comes up for a hug from Elsa. “I’m 60 now and I’ve come here since early high school with my parents. I just wanted to bring my out-of-town friend and he loved it too.”
“This is why we survive,” said Elsa, as he leaves, “because generations bring the next generation and then they bring their friends. We’ve seen the mother grow bigger and suddenly there is a baby. And now the baby is grown and bringing in their children. It’s like our family; our grandsons now work the register.”
The restaurant has also survived for decades due to the family’s dedication. They arrive at 4:30 in the morning to start the slow cooking of their famous brisket. Elsa is glad that she sees people from all walks of life come in. “Painters with their splattered white outfits, and workers from the fields, and presidents of banks, they all come to eat,” she said, “And we treat everyone the same.”
In her time, she’s never seen road construction like what’s happening on Valley Drive now, and she points toward the restaurant with only a few tables full.
“We don’t blame anyone; it’s just a process,” she said. “We’re grateful for the customers who are finding new ways to get here. And with the sign from the city, it lets people who haven’t been here, think, ‘Oh, what’s Ranchway?’”
“We’ve been blessed with the consistency of our customers,” she paused as emotion caught up with her. “I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart.”
The NMDOT construction is expected to continue through early 2020. Valley Drive business owners impacted by the NMDOT road reconstruction can request a City-provided blue sign with their business name, which will direct traffic straight to the business. Please contact Hector Terrazas with the City of Las Cruces at 541-2508 to request a sign.
The next NMDOT meeting to update businesses on road reconstruction will be again at the Thomas Branigan Memorial Library on Tuesday, April 16th. For the most up-to-date information about the Valley Drive road project, please visit www.valleydrive.net.
Questions or concerns about access to Valley Drive businesses, contact project manager Ryan Tafoya at (575) 525-7313. Please do not move the bright orange barrels which can impede traffic flow and cause dangerous situations.
The City of Las Cruces encourages residents to continue to support local Valley Drive businesses, and work with our local Chambers of Commerce in their efforts to provide support.
PHOTO 1: Customer Chris Cowan snags a quick hug from Ranchway Restaurant’s Elsa Rodriguez. His parents brought him to the restaurant for years, and now he brings a friend.
PHOTO 2: Owner Elsa Rodriguez poses outside Ranchway Restaurant, surrounded by the orange construction barrels on Valley Drive.