Marble’s Gonzalez keeps the taprooms humming amid the chaos

Posted: April 23, 2015 by cjax33 in NM Women in Brewing
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Amusing tidbit about this photo: Barbie said it was the only time all week she didn't have a Marble shirt on, so she moved my beer glass into the shot, because the giant logo behind her just wasn't enough.

Amusing tidbit about this photo: Barbie said it was the only time all week she didn’t have a Marble shirt on, so she moved my beer glass into the shot, because the giant logo behind her just wasn’t enough.

After a little lull, otherwise known as “I had to cover the Isotopes’ opening homestand,” the Crew is restarting our series on NM Women in Brewing. At long last, we are delving into the (many) women working in key positions down at Marble Brewery. Being a tad busy right now with their Anniversary Week, rather than interview everyone at once it will be one at a time for these stories. As it turns out, that is just fine considering they each have quite a story to tell.

Stepping up to the plate first was Barbie Gonzalez, Marble’s Director of Taproom Operations, who met me downtown Wednesday afternoon to chat about her new position, what she loves about the craft beer industry, and a whole lot more. And though she came to Albuquerque from New York, I never once asked if she is a Rangers fan. Gotta keep these interviews nice and civil and not complaining about terrible NHL officiating and missed scoring opportunities and what the hell is the matter with Malkin and … (Deep breath, Jackson, deep breath; Bayern made the UCL semifinals, you’ve got that to hang onto for now.)

OK, on with the interview.

NMDSBC: To kick things off, let’s get a little background on you. How did you end up working here at Marble?

Barbie: OK, so I came to New Mexico in 2002. I came from New York City after the (World Trade Center) towers went down. I went on the road and I was just kind of looking for a new place, a new experience, something was untouched, something that was opposite of New York City. I found Albuquerque and it was like a gem to me. … I went from professional business jobs where I was in offices and I just decided, you know what, I’m going to do something completely opposite, I’m going to go into the service industry. I had a bunch of jobs here in the state at various bars. And one day my (sales) rep from Marble came in and said you should check out our taproom one of these days. I fell in love with everything. I fell in love with the beer. I fell in love with the experience. I fell in love with Marble. I told him, hey, if there is ever an opportunity just think about me.

So I was general managing a little place called Doc & Eddy’s. I knew immediately that I wanted to go with Marble and become a part of Marble and so I started bartending (in March 2013). So a couple months after that I became the assistant pub manager. A couple of months after that I became the pub manager. And then this past December I became Director of Taproom Operations, which pretty much means I manage all (three) taprooms. I’ve been home ever since. I couldn’t be more proud of where I work and more happy and that’s honest.

NMDSBC: We’ve all been here on the weekends. We’ve all seen what it can get like in this space. So what kind of a challenge is that for you when you’re managing your staff and they’re trying to deal with all of the people, how do you keep everyone calm, cool, and collected in the face of the chaos?

Barbie: So you need to always be, somebody that’s leading people always needs to be an example of what they want. So if I’m not calm, cool, and collected, no one else is going to be. I’ve been used to dealing with high volume for a really, really long time. But the other thing is, the scene here is so strong, so we have to be really careful, delicate, and selective with who we bring on (staff) here at Marble. I’m looking for people that are passionate about beer, but are also going to fit with the current team I have here. That has to do maintaining your cool under pressure and also continue to provide an experience that come in here. When I interview people, I always tell them this is not about your average bar-tending job. You’re not making a drink or pouring a beer and sliding it across the bar. What you’re doing is you’re creating an experience for the people that come in here. You’re talking about the beer. You’re talking about our events. You’re able to educate them about not just our product, but things that are going on, things that are happening with Marble.

And just to make another little point, I really frown down upon anyone that is giving a first-time craft beer person any sort of negative experience. We want people that know everything about the craft beer industry and know nothing about the craft beer industry to have the same experience.

NMDSBC: At one point in your life did you jump into craft beer?

Barbie: It was here at Marble. I had very little craft beer knowledge and experience before Marble.

NMDSBC: Now that you do know about it, what is your impression of this industry?

Barbie: I love the industry, I love how passionate people are about making craft beer, drinking craft beer, and the community that the craft beer industry has kind of created. It’s very warm, it’s very welcoming, it’s a fantastic experience all around. Specifically at Marble, the way we’re involved with the community, the local arts scene, how much we support and believe in the Albuquerque landscape, is something that I am just very proud of. I’ve seen that at other craft breweries across the U.S. I know we’re trying to continue this certain vibe that’s been set. I think we’re doing it very well. It’s great to be a part of that. I definitely feel like I am at home. I was kind of lost there for a little while in my life. When I walked through the doors here and after I was working here for a little bit, I knew I was home.

NMDSBC: Getting into the specifics of your job, what does a general day entail for you? What are you trying to get done from start to finish?

Barbie: Well, I’m trying to make sure at this point, especially with all the renovations and the way our business has picked up, I’m definitely trying to make sure all of the locations are staffed properly. I’m in charge of scheduling for two of the three locations (downtown and Westside). I’m always touching base with my managers. I’m always touching base with my staff. I work with Amberley (Rice) on events, coordinating festivals. This week is really insane. I’m going to be running the event on Saturday in Santa Fe.

It’s just kind of like where I’m the most needed. It changes every day. One day I might be sitting at a couple meetings in the morning. That afternoon I’m doing orientation for all the new hires. Or it might be … it’s such an open-ended question. There’s so much that I do, I can’t really put it into a little bubble for you. It’s wonderful, I love my job because of this.

NMDSBC: Amberley mentioned that before the renovations there was the major reorganization here at Marble, and the result of that was that many of the jobs previously held by men are now held by women. Is that kind a little mini-statement about where the industry is headed right now? We’re seeing a lot more women moving into key positions in the back, in the front, in the office.

Barbie: I don’t think it has to do with the fact that we’re women as much as it has to do with the fact that we’re good, hard-working people. I don’t think it matters if you’re a man or a woman, if you do a good job, and you’re committed, and you’re passionate about what you’re doing, you’re going to grow in your company. I think that at this point in time that there are a lot of women in upper management, and also we’re seeing a lot of women in brewing, I think that doesn’t have to do with the fact that we’re women, but that just each individual person is hard working.

NMDSBC: I think the reason a lot of people have taken notice is that 10 years ago a lot of these opportunities weren’t there. Now they aren’t looking at gender, they’re looking at who’s the best person for the job.

Barbie: It’s hard for me to think like that, because I’ve never felt that way, but I can see what you’re saying. I’ve never been limited by anything as far as gender goes.

NMDSBC: A few years ago, you would see the crowd in the taprooms be about 75 percent guys. Now it’s closer to 50-50, sometimes women are even the majority of the crowds at breweries. You talked about the overall cultural impact, building community and the like, creating a welcoming environment. Do you think that’s part of the reason we’re getting more women into craft beer?

Barbie: I think there are a lot of elements that contribute to why you’re seeing more women getting into craft beer. I think the direction that we’re all heading into is becoming a lot more knowledgeable into what we put into our bodies. We’re also about supporting local businesses now a lot more than we were in the ’80s. So I think that that has a lot to do with what’s going on. In general, as people become more educated, as people want to learn more, as people want to support local business more, it’s going to draw more people. For us specifically, again we’ve got great beer, but we provide a great experience overall.

* * * * *

A huge thanks to Barbie for taking the time to chat on one of Marble’s busiest weeks of the year (maybe of all time). It was good to finally get to know someone I have seen working there many times. Next up on the docket will be Marble’s Director of Marketing, Amberley Rice, who is also the wife of owner/founding brewer Ted Rice, followed by brewer Anna Kornke. Look for those stories next week.

And as always, if anyone out there feels there is someone we have missed, you can email us the suggestion at nmdarksidebrewcrew@gmail.com. We are hoping to talk to the key staffers at La Cumbre and a certain brewer at Nexus before too long.

Until then, enjoy the festivities at Marble and all of our other fine breweries.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

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