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LAS CRUCES - Driving down West Picacho Avenue, you may have noticed a rather large pink polka-dotted elephant greeting passersby from the side of the road.
This elephant is just one of the many unique features of Elephant Ranch, 3995 W. Picacho Ave. Co-owners Deret Roberts and Dillon Nunn, both 28, opened the bar in early June in what was once Guacamole’s Bar & Grille, a Las Cruces staple that closed several years ago, leaving the building vacant.
And if the name “Elephant Ranch” confuses you, Nunn said that’s the point.
Shortly after buying the property, Nunn said he started referring to it as “the ranch.” It had a nice ring to it, but he thought it needed something else.
“Since I’m from Hatch, I didn’t want everyone to think I was going to do a honky-tonk,” Nunn said. “Honky-tonks are cool – I like going to them – but they wouldn’t be something where all people would feel welcome.”
Nunn said since elephants had become a popular animal in his family, Elephant Ranch seemed like a fitting name.
“I wanted to put the ‘elephant’ in front of it to offset the ‘ranch,’ so whenever you read it, you would maybe be a little confused – not know exactly what it is and know that you would feel welcome to go, but you just wouldn’t know what kind of scene it is until you went,” Nunn said. “You couldn’t really peg it until you got there.”
Roberts and Nunn are no strangers to running a business. Outside of the bar, Roberts owns the local gallery Art Obscura, and Nunn, who also works at an RV dealership in Hatch, has roots in the restaurant business. His parents Josie and Teako Nunn own Sparky's BBQ and Espresso, the iconic Hatch restaurant known for its world-famous green chile cheeseburger.
Nunn said he isn’t trying to duplicate anything his parents have accomplished, but he did learn a few tricks of the trade from them.
“My dad has a list of the top things that make a business in general successful, and atmosphere is at the top of that list,” he said.
The atmosphere at Elephant Ranch seems to have made an impression with customers. By the second weekend the bar was open, it had already attracted a few regulars, Nunn said.
“They’re like, ‘This is what we needed, this is what we wanted, this is our bar,’” he said.
Other than a few added tables and chairs, antique signs and décor, the inside of Elephant Ranch hasn’t changed much from what Guacamole’s used to look like with indoor fountains and an outdoor seating area, currently used as the beer garden.
“(Deret and I) both like antiques, and I had a bunch I’ve been hoarding for years,” Nunn said.
But Elephant Ranch is a work in progress, he said.
“This whole place is a canvas,” Nunn said. “So, right now we have what we want to be open, but we’re going to add multiple bars to it.”
Other plans include opening a package store in the building next door and making use of the kitchen space and wood-fired pizza oven in the beer garden.
Elephant Ranch is currently partnered with Tacos Romero food truck, which sells tacos in the beer garden during business hours. But the ultimate goal is to offer an eclectic mix of food for customers, Nunn said.
“The future of Elephant Ranch is very exciting,” Roberts said. “Our combined efforts and imagination are really going to create an experience unlike anything in the area.”
For now, the bar specializes in quality cocktails, serving a classic chelada, mimosa, margarita and Moscow mule made with fresh ingredients, along with a selection of draft, bottled and canned beers, wine and champagne.
“One thing that we did here is we have one shelf of alcohol, so if you order the margarita, you don’t have a choice on tequila,” Nunn said. “You’re just going to get a really quality tequila – we use Altos Reposado and that’s all we use.
“The same with our vodka,” he added. “We use Reyka, it’s from Iceland and that’s the only vodka we use.”
Nunn said the liquors at Elephant Ranch were chosen based on profile and price.
“We just got the best-tasting tequila and vodka possible that would still make it affordable for the public to drink,” he said.
Nunn said by working closely with liquor companies, he hopes to eventually get some liquors branded Elephant Ranch.
While Elephant Ranch is only open three days a week, Friday through Sunday, every weekend gets busier, Nunn said.
On a Friday in early August, the bar was already bustling with people by 4 p.m.
Las Cruces resident Greg Courtier, a customer at Elephant Ranch, said he was enjoying the venue.
“I remember when this was Guacamole’s before and the atmosphere is really cool; it’s a great location,” Courtier said. “It’s an indoor/outdoor setting. It’s kind of nice sitting outside and you get the best of both worlds – you get the indoors and the outdoors both.
“It’s kind of an eclectic mix of people,” he added. “It’s Las cruces at its finest.”
When asked if any more elephants would be added to the property, Nunn said it was something he would consider once a few other things are in place.
“We’ve got plenty of room,” Nunn said. “I don’t want to scare anybody, but we might if there’s another elephant lying around.”
Alexia Severson may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.