When Walt and Sam Salinas opened Rock & Roll Times, the two brothers who grew up in Lamesa, Texas, wanted to do more than just recreate the comfortable ambience of the 1950 heydays. “We grew up in ‘rock and roll.’ Peace, love and hippie days. We didn’t want to lose that era and wanted to bring back the ‘true rock’ of those days. Let the customer come in here and hear it,” invited Sam Salinas.
Those were the days when Elvis was “king”, rock and roll was in its infancy, DeSotos and Pontiac Bonneville’s leisurely cruised the main drags of towns and Route 66 was still an unremarkable dirt road through the open spaces of New Mexico. Images of the enigmatic James Dean and iconic Marilyn Monroe as well as other time-related memorabilia such as vinyl 45 rpm records adorn the walls. The scene would not be complete without the signature piece, a shiny jukebox with flashing neon lights. The diner caters not only to the generation that remembers those days, but to the younger techies who may have difficulty detaching from their gadgets. The large screen TV’s can be set to channels requested by customers at the counter and the library includes classic movies and TV shows. Wireless is available and even the timeless jukebox has been converted to accept ipods.
Both brothers are proud of successful fifteen-year long careers with WalMart. After establishing approximately twenty-five superstores and working in every aspect of the operation, they decided to eliminate the need for traveling and limit their time away from their families by reducing their job responsibilities to managing area stores, Walt in Midland-Odessa and Sam in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Walt had purchased a home in Ruidoso several years ago and had developed a good feeling for the unique tempo of the resort village. Their dream of combining a love of rock and roll music with lifelong experiences in the food industry was the impetus for opening Rock & Roll Times on February 25, 2012. The Salinas brothers humorously recounted their nearly disastrous opening day, “We didn’t have our cooks yet and since both of us could manage a superstore with 600 employees, we decided we can do this. Two to three tickets on the spinner were fine, but then the tickets piled up and we lost track of which orders we were working on. Turned to chaos real fast.” By the second day, though, they had their cooks and were able to breeze through the day.
It was no accident that the diner is housed in a building that used to be the Tastee Freeze on the road that was considered the “main drag” in Ruidoso. Some customers have let Walt know that they used to work there 25 years ago and many have pointed out where their favorite seat was, with one lady indicating, “I was sitting right there when the Twin Towers fell.” Walt humbly indicated that perhaps by reviving the old building, they preserved a connection to Ruidoso’s history. “Our next step is to get involved with community organizations, learn what Ruidoso is about, and figure out what we, Walt and Sam, can do for this community.” They make it clear that they started the business primarily for the locals, and are grateful for the support they have already received. “We’re all about customer service”, Walt cited as he pointed to the challenging, ever-evolving four page menu that covers adaptations of favorite diner cuisine.
Walt and Sam’s dedication to family is evident not only in the operation and long-term plans for the business, but in the décor of the diner. On a singular wall in a prominent section of the diner is an encased American flag with several military medals and photos. “Our dad was a World War II veteran. He taught us everything we know, so what better way to honor him than to display his medals in our business.”
Future plans include a living history lesson and experience in rock and roll music . “We want to show the entire rock era, the progression through the times with live entertainment. Both brothers are musicians and Walt recalled that he fell in love with rock and roll when he was only eleven years old. After learning to play the guitar, he entered the school talent show. “My mom had made me a cape like Elvis had. The gym was full and I was so nervous. It was just me, the microphone, and a little guitar. I sang ‘You ain’t Nothin’ but a Hound Dog’. Ever since then I’ve been hooked.”
For those old enough to remember the carefree days of the fifties and wanting a trip down memory lane, for afficionados of rock and roll music, or for anyone needing a respite from today’s hectic pace, Rock & Roll Times is the perfect stop for a malt, milk shake or a satisfying meal served by happy staff. In the words of a couple of brothers who never stopped dreaming, “This place is for everyone.”
Rock & Roll Times is located at 340 Sudderth Drive
and open daily from 7:00 AM until 10:00 PM