LOVINGTON — The Lovington landmark Burger Builders hosted a dual celebration Thursday with about two dozen attendees congratulating both the new owner and a 37-year employee.
With representatives of the city and the chamber of commerce at hand, previous owners Ronny and Kim Reeder helped new owner Martin Lara cut the ribbon signifying change in management.
Meanwhile, main cook Mary Rivera received a cake and service award for her 37 years with the Reeders.
Ronny Reeder, who owned a small operation before opening Burger Builders in 1984, said, “It’s really about 37 years altogether, but 35 here. I have customers coming in that were coming in here when I was in high school. They’re still coming in today.
“Mary started with me when I had the little building. We were both young when we started. Mary is 100% for us. Mary’s been a lot of fun to work with,” Reeder said.
Rivera, with a large family in attendance, told the News-Sun she expects to retire in about two years.
Reeder said he joked with Rivera about retiring, telling her she wasn’t allowed to retire until after he did. Now, having sold the business to Lara, he plans to work his real estate business while doing “a little bit of nothing,” he said.
Lara actually took control of the business on Nov. 1 after about eight months of discussing the possibility with the Reeders.
“We’ve been running for the last month and it’s been great,” Lara said. “The customers have been great. We’ve had a lot of good feedback.”
He said any changes will be minor and gradual.
“I’ve had a lot of questions. ‘Are you going to change the menu?’ has been the biggest question,” Lara said. “We’re not here to change the menu. With 35 years in business, that counts a lot. What we’re going to do is be sure we’re consistent with the food.”
Recognizing customers come from all around the area, Lara plans to keep the operation as consistent as possible.
“We’ve got clients that come here from Artesia, Roswell, football and basketball teams, and they come in from Tatum. They come from all over,” Lara said. “We want to carry the torch and continue what he’s (Reeder) been doing and be consistent with everything we do. Customer service definitely comes first. It’s kind of our mission.”
Currently with 12 employees, many of whom started at Burger Builders as high school students, Lara anticipates adding more if the business grows.
“We like the idea of having students come in. I think that’s great, to see what we can do to train the students to a good work ethic,” Lara said. “We come from a long line of strong work ethic.”
He credited Rivera for much of the training the students receive. “She shows them what to do and what not to do,” Lara said.
Asked what she does for the business, Rivera said, “I’m the main cook in the back.”
Lara has had years of experience in the food service business, having run a small restaurant and managed the perishables departments for Sam’s Club. He is a Hobbsan with two sons currently living and working in Hobbs.
Although no real changes to the menu are expected, Lara said some small additions may be made.
“We’re going to add to the menu as we go along, nothing drastic, just minor tweaks,” Lara said.