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La Posta receives ‘Backing Historic Small Restaurants’ grant

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American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation have divided a million dollars between 25 historic and culturally significant restaurants in the United States owned by underrepresented groups.

The restaurants, including La Posta de Mesilla, will receive funding through the “Backing Historic Small Restaurants” Grant program.

Each restaurant will receive $40,000 in grants funded by American Express and administered by the National Trust. The National Trust will also provide technical assistance to support the use of the grant funds.

In 1939, Katy Griggs Camunez started her own “little chile joint” with four tables on a dirt floor, no running water and her mother preparing food from century-old recipes from local families. It’s still in the family, now run by Katy’s great niece, Jerean Camunez Hutchinson and her husband Tom. The expanded La Posta compound is recognized on the National Register of Historic Places.

“We are very honored and privileged,” Tom Hutchinson said. “They were looking for places with a good story and which are historically prominent. We were very fortunate to be selected.”

The funds can only be used to enhance the front area, to clean it up, he said. They had plans pre-Covid to work on the parking lot, so they “dusted off” the existing plans for improvements.

“We’ll do some parking lot enhancements, some building enhancements out front,” Hutchinson said. “You can see where things can get enhanced pretty quickly – from the rock beds to the silent façade.  Even the wood trim on the windows could be refinished.”

He said work on the parking lot had to stop because that is where the outside tent had to be during Covid.

Now that the county has gone to Turquoise Covid status, the restaurant has been busy inside as well as with curbside services but, Hutchinson said, because he can’t find enough staff, they will have to temporarily close inside services on Tuesdays and Wednesdays until folks are ready to look for jobs again.

“As the county opens back up, people have an appetite to get out,” he said. “I hope (being closed two days a week) is a temporary thing. It’s a dilemma right now for us.”

The grant funding will help each restaurant enhance restaurant exteriors, build new outdoor seating areas and upgrade online businesses to help mitigate operating costs as they work to recover from the financial impacts of the pandemic. La Posta is the only New Mexico restaurant selected.

“Historic small restaurants are cultural treasures that strengthen their communities and carry their legacies and traditions forward in deeply meaningful ways,” said Katherine Malone-France, chief preservation officer with the National Trust. “These restaurants have demonstrated their resiliency for decades, and even while dealing with the financial impacts of the pandemic, they have continued to support their communities in many ways. We are honored to partner with American Express to help these landmarks write the next chapters in their amazing stories.”   

Read more about all 25 historic restaurants at blog.resy.com/the-classics.