30 years of delicious memories

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By Carol A. Clark

Featured on the April/May cover of Southwest Restaurateur Magazine, De Colores owners Joan and Melvin Duran have reached a proud milestone: three decades in business.

“We first opened in 1978 in White Rock and we moved up here behind Baskin Robbins in 1989,” Joan said. “We moved to our current location at 2470 East Road on May 5, 2003.”

When she began the family business, Duran prepared her family recipes first in the former White Rock Tastee Freeze, then Mel’s Diner, where she incorporated chile, carne adovada and sopaipillas – the recipes of her mother, Rachel Apodaca.

The family business includes the Durans’ daughter, Debbie Duran Merhege, who serves as bookkeeper for the restaurant.

Son Tim Duran was the restaurant’s chef for 29-and-a-half years until recently moving to Albuquerque to attend school.

Melvin has supported his family’s business from behind the scenes while working full time. He is an engineer who retired from Los Alamos National Laboratory in 2000 after 40 years.

He now maintains an office in the back of the restaurant where he works on the security/surveillance software he is marketing, Joan said.

General Manager Sue Barthel-Dummer was honored as New Mexico Restaurant Association’s Manager of the Year in 2007. Barthel-Dummer, 51, said she feels like family having started with the restaurant when she was just 21-years-old.

“The Duran family have always treated me kindly,” Barthel-Dummer said. “I could have had other jobs but I’m not a fan of big corporations – small business is the backbone of our country and people are going to realize that large corporations are not the answer. I love the loyalty of the Duran family to their employees.”

The heart of the De Colores menu is northern New Mexico cuisine.

It includes enchiladas, fajitas, chimichangas, burritos, rellenos and more. Steaks and trout are also on the menu.

“We’re probably the longest-operating restaurant in Los Alamos County,” Joan said, “and we will continue to serve the community for many years to come.”

The community is invited to celebrate the restaurant’s anniversary from 5-8 p.m. Wednesday.

The event will feature live music and a chocolate dessert fountain, $5 frozen margaritas and $3 chile con queso appetizers.