As inflation concerns, supply chain issues and labor shortages continue to plague Santa Fe businesses, yet another local restaurant has announced it will close permanently. This time out, it’s Opuntia Café (1607 Alcaldesa St., (505) 780-5796), the Railyard-based eatery owned by Todd Spitzer and Jeanna Gienke. The duo launched the current space just three years ago, mid-pandemic, after moving out of the Baca Street Railyard, where the restaurant originally opened in 2017.
A combination coffeeshop, lunch and dinner joint and succulent shop, Opuntia’s sprawling second-story Market Station location was all about more service space, Gienke and Spitzer told SFR in 2020 when they were preparing to launch. The business faced delays even before COVID-19, however, which it weathered during a pop-up stint at the El Rey Court hotel on Cerrillos Road. Still, according to Spitzer, it never recovered financially after the pandemic hit.
“We were going to open and then two weeks later, COVID happened,” he explains in an interview Saturday. “It’s just...it’s all of it. I’m devastated, but we had to just keep borrowing and borrowing, and it was these predatory, high-interest loans; we couldn’t manage the cash flow. A couple people looked into buying it, but there was just too much debt.”
Opuntia also faced its fair share of staffing turmoil and kitchen changeups. Additionally, original executive chef Kim Muller died in September last year following a private bout with cancer. Spitzer, meanwhile, might also be known to Santa Feans as a former employee of Iconik Coffee Roasters and a founder of the Railyard’s Sky Coffee, though he’s no longer a part of either of those businesses. He tells SFR he stopped paying himself at Opuntia in recent months and has become certified as a life coach, which he’ll do moving forward.
“I’m just beyond grateful for the support we’ve had here,” Spitzer adds. “It’s been stellar and sometimes overwhelming. But we’ve got to shut down now—I love and adore my staff, and we’ve got to do it now because they’ve got to get paid.”
This news comes on the heels of the closure of Guadalupe Street gastropub Fire & Hops, which shuttered suddenly earlier this month due to similar issues. It’s also another in a series of local closures in recent years that include HoneyMoon Brewery, the original location of Second Street Brewery, fledgling yet wildly popular Mediterranean spot Tajine, St. Michael’s corridor’s Loyal Hound and downtown tapas restaurant El Mesón (though that last one has been taken over by Kathleen Crook-owned steakhouse Market Steer, which currently operates inside the Hotel St. Francis, and will reportedly open down the road following renovations).
Opuntia still has one more day of morning and afternoon service, according to Spitzer, being Sunday, Sept. 24. Following that, at 3 pm, that’s all she wrote.
“We’re going to knock it out tomorrow,” he tells SFR. “We’re going to do the best we can.”