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  • Robert Nott

Following in the footsteps of their fathers

She wants to keep the family business going

New Mexican

Pat Aranda remembers the scent well.

It has hints of a cigar and Dove soap. It’s a manly, woody, odor, he said.

It is the scent of his father, Raymond Aranda, who died in April 2022.

When Pat Aranda walks through his father’s house, next door to Aranda’s Plumbing, Heating and Supply shop on Cortez Street in Santa Fe, he feels his father’s presence and thinks back to all the good times they had together in his childhood — lunchtimes when his father would come home faithfully to eat and take a nap; hunting and fishing expeditions and road trips to Las Vegas, Nev., where Raymond Aranda liked to gamble; playing baseball and football.

“My dad believed in working hard 8 to 5, but when he closed the door at five o’clock it was time for his kids; it was our time,” Pat Aranda said during a recent interview at the plumbing shop, which he now runs. “He could care less if the phones were ringing and people were yelling at him. He said, ‘I’m done; it’s family time.’ ”

It’s one of many traditions Raymond Aranda passed down to his son over the decades.

He also passed down the family business, which Raymond’s grandfather had started in 1947.

Pat Aranda, 60, follows in the footsteps of his father, borrowing heavily from the way he had run the business from the mid-1950s until his death. “What he did [with the business] I’m just repeating,” Pat said.

While it once was common for a family business to stay in the family, data indicates the trend might be declining.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported in 2019 about 90% of American businesses are family-owned or controlled, but only 40% of them become a second-generation business, and only 13% are passed down successfully to a third generation. Just 3% go to a fourth generation or beyond.

That’s the way of the world, Pat Aranda said. Both his children, who are operating their own businesses, have gone in different directions. His son, Michael Aranda, owns the Santa Fe Olive Oil & Balsamic Co. and his daughter, Alex Aranda, and her husband just opened a cannabis shop, he said.

Would either of them take over the plumbing business when he calls it quits?

“It’d be a long shot,” he said.

Alma Castro, 35, is running the restaurant her parents started in Santa Fe in 1990, but she is guiding Cafe Castro into a new era. She plans to turn it into a cooperative business owned by employees who want to buy into it.

Her father, Carlos Castro, supports the plan. He and his wife, Julia, retired from the business in 2019.

Coaxed by her mother, Alma Castro came back from Chicago to take over the business in 2019. What she wants, she said, is to keep the family business going and give her father some time to enjoy life, play soccer and laugh. His last years of working full time at the restaurant made him sick with stress, she said.

“He still feels pressure to work,” she added.

Castro, who is running for a seat on the Santa Fe City Council, worked at the restaurant as a child, making sopaipillas, busing tables and seating customers. Her father was always there by her side, always had her back, she said.

Until he gave her a job washing dishes.

“I broke so many, my dad ran me out of the kitchen,” she said.

She remains impressed with her father’s work ethic and his dedication to making a better life for himself and his family. A refugee from a war-torn El Salvador, he came to the United States in the early 1980s. Though his family’s background was in agricultural engineering, he took a restaurant job washing dishes at $3 an hour.

“He wanted to survive the ravages of what was happening in El Salvador,” Alma Castro said. “That didn’t leave many options, so he did what he had to do to survive.” He also helped some of his brothers and his daughter from a previous marriage immigrate to the U.S.

Carlos Castro worked in the kitchen at Tomasita’s, where he met his wife, who was the general manager. Together they opened their own restaurant and raised three daughters.

Alma Castro is the youngest. She’s also the only openly queer member of the family, she said, so she likes to joke, “I’m my father’s only son.”

She added, “My dad has gone through so many difficult things with no chip on his shoulder, with no gray cloud to follow him around.”

She said she knows she will never fill her father’s shoes, but she recently asked him how she could follow in his footsteps.

“Well, the business, clearly,” he said.

“To him, it is an extension of himself; it is his greatest accomplishment,” his daughter said.

Pat Aranda said the best way for him to follow in his father’s footsteps is to emulate Raymond Aranda’s behavior at the office and at home.

“If I can just continue what he taught me — keep up the positive attitude daily, always with the happy face, run the business as honestly as I can with integrity — that’s the best thing a father can give you, to give you those skills,” he said.

Raymond Aranda had a chance to go to college on a football scholarship after he graduated from St. Michael’s High School in 1956, but life got in the way, as it so often does.

His father, Eulogio Aranda, had a stroke that year that immobilized him. Raymond, just 18 at the time, took over the shop.

He quickly grew to love the business, where he and his wife, Raquel, worked for decades. Pat Aranda came back from college to join the business in 1984.

There was one obvious difference between father and son: Raymond was an on-call plumber who loved to serve customers, while Pat stayed in the shop and handled the business end.

“I didn’t have the talent,” Pat Aranda said, explaining why he didn’t become a plumber. “I can tell you all day long how to repair a faucet or how to repair this or repair that, but I sure can’t do it myself.”

His father, he said, developed a niche market — a place to go to find plumbing and heating parts you couldn’t find anywhere else.

“He had a handle for every kind of faucet there was,” Pat Aranda said. “He taught me that niche, and I expanded on it.”

His father was so willing to serve his customers that if his shop did not have a part they wanted, he’d go over to his house to see if he had a spare one he could give them.

“He was a very outgoing, generous man,” his son said.


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