Persistent Weck’s employee helped bring restaurant to Los Lunas

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There might not be a Weck’s restaurant in Los Lunas were it not for the persistence of a Weck’s employee who lives in the village and encouraged locals to pester the company about locating here.

 

“The owner said I was crazy when I suggested it, that the market wasn’t big enough,” said Fonda Grady. “People would see my (Weck’s branded) shirt and ask, ‘Why don’t we have one of those here?’ So I told them to call or e-mail the company.

“He (owner Art Kaplan) got an overwhelming response,” she said, “so he decided to open a Weck’s here.”

Not only did Kaplan open an outlet in Los Lunas, he made Grady the manager. The restaurant opened June 14, and Grady’s persistence was vindicated.

“It was an amazing opening for us,” she said. “We set all kinds of records for Weck’s,” and the Los Lunas location is running between second and third in sales in the chain despite being one of the smallest stores in size with a seating capacity of 150.

Grady will be familiar to a lot of Los Lunas residents. She ran Henrietta’s Restaurant for 15 years, she said. She’s been with Weck’s about two years.

The Weck’s chain debuted in New Mexico in 1991 with a restaurant on Louisiana Boulevard in Albuquerque. There are now nine locations in the Albuquerque metro area, with a new one coming to Santa Fe soon and a second planned.

The Los Lunas Weck’s is located in the former Red Balloon Restaurant at 3463 N.M. 47, opposite the Smith’s shopping center.

The interior has been thoroughly cleaned and remodeled, Grady said. The Red Balloon was a magnet for smokers because it was the last restaurant in Los Lunas and perhaps in the county that had a smoking area. Grady said it took a tremendous amount of effort to eradicated the smoke smell from the building, but it is completely gone now.

“I can spot former Red Balloon patrons when they walk in the door because they start sniffing the air,” she laughed.

The renovations included an all-new kitchen, new heating and cooling system, new non-skid floors, and new tables and booths.

“We did a lot of work here,” Grady said. “It took about five months to get it ready.”

The restaurant has a diner atmosphere built around a 1950s Hollywood theme, with lots of pictures of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and other stars, and lots of movie-themed decorations.

Weck’s is open for breakfast and lunch only, with hours of 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. seven days a week (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day).

“One of the reasons I was convinced Weck’s would do well here is because Los Lunas is a breakfast and lunch town,” Grady said, although, she added, “People are having a hard time getting used to the 2 p.m. closing.”

Why only breakfast and lunch?

“Our owner believes we should be home with our families for dinner,” she said. “He is very family-oriented, and he treats his employees like family.”

Grady said Weck’s has 42 employees, more than most small restaurants.

“We have more servers on the floor than most restaurants, even some bigger ones,” she said, allowing for faster service.

The Weck’s customer-service philosophy is extensive and mandatory, starting with a smile from the greeter to the “nine steps of service” customers experience during their visit, Grady said.

One of those steps, she said is “at every location, every manager visits every table. We like to get to know our customers, and we want to make them feel at home. We’ve already established a lot of repeat customers.”

Grady said the Weck’s experience is pretty simple: “Amazing food, amazing service, huge portions.”

During the interview with Grady, a nearby customer commented, “This is a lot of food!”

One local resident described the portions as “enough for two truck drivers.”

The restaurant has been busy enough that there can be waiting lines at lunch and on weekends.

“It seems like everyone in Los Lunas goes to lunch at the same time,” Grady joked, “but even with a line, the longest wait is only 15 or 20 minutes, usually less.”

Grady said that although she was certain the restaurant would do well in Los Lunas, it is doing better than she or anyone expected.

“The community response has been great,” she said. “I’m glad all those folks made those phone calls and sent those e-mails.”

 


Contact Dana Bowley