|By Paula Canning|
SOUTH HADLEY Frequent patrons of Springfield's Autentica Restaurant may be happy to know that the New Mexican style restaurant is not closed, but has moved to a new location at the Village Commons in South Hadley, Mass.
According to owner Hector Salas, the move was a "business decision," that he made when owner of the The Village Commons property invited him to join the variety of other restaurants and shops that comprise the Route 16 location, directly across from Mount Holyoke College.
Salas explained that he was familiar with the South Hadley location and demographic, and thought the move might increase business.
"I figured it would probably be a better location than Sumner [Avenue]," he said. "I thought it would be a lateral, if not beneficial move for me."
He added, however, that business is at his former location "was doing great."
Although Salas entered into a lease at the Village Commons space in April, he said he began work on the former pizza restaurant three months prior.
The space required a complete renovation for Salas's purposes, during which he said he "gutted the whole inside," with the exception of the flooring.
Although he left his old location behind, Salas explained that Autentica's appliances, equipment, staff and menu all went along with him.
"Literally everything here besides the walls are from Sumner Avenue," he said. "It's the same old Autentica. The only thing that's changed is the address."
In addition to the four members of his staff who also worked at the Springfield location, Salas said that he has also hired another employee and is currently accepting applications for other positions.
Born and raised in New Mexico, Salas explained that it wasn't exactly his lifetime dream to open up a restaurant.
Instead, it was his experience in a serious car accident that inspired him to switch gears from painting contractor to restaurant owner.
"When something like that happens, you just realize that life is too short," said Salas, who moved from New Mexico to Springfield in 1992.
He said he had been "toying with the idea" of opening up a New Mexican style restaurant for several years after moving to the area, but probably wouldn't have went ahead with it if not for the accident.
He said his desire to open the restaurant was rooted in his longing for the New Mexican style cuisine that was a staple of his upbringing.
"I just missed the food so much that I wanted to open up a place and offer it," he said."Once I got going with it, things just started falling into place. It was just meant to be."
According to Salas, his restaurant offers "good tasting," New Mexican food that is healthier than most restaurants.
The reason for this, he said, is that everything on the menu is made from fresh foods, including all of the vegetables and beans.
In addition, he said he marinates all of the meats first, refrigerates the marinated meat, then eliminates the fat that rises to the top due to the refrigeration.
"Autentica not only offers the flavors of New Mexican homestyle cooking, it also offers fresh food that's made form scratch, which means it's healthy food," he said. "Combine that with a decent price and you get the best of both worlds."
Autentica, located at 9 College Street at The Village Commons, can be reached at (413) 315-6474.