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Know Your Neighbor: Maxine and Steve Thomas

Family keeps generations of Taoseños in sweet ice-cream treats

By Kathy Córdova
For The Taos News
Posted 1/16/19

During these winter months, Baskin Robbins ice-cream store owners Maxine and Steve Thomas can attest, local and out-of-town customers drop by to purchase a variety of frozen treats.

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Column

Know Your Neighbor: Maxine and Steve Thomas

Family keeps generations of Taoseños in sweet ice-cream treats

Posted

Ice cream means happy times for most people, regardless of the season. During these winter months, Baskin Robbins ice-cream store owners Maxine and Steve Thomas can attest, local and out-of-town customers drop by to purchase a variety of frozen treats.

The ice-cream shop has been in the Thomas generation for decades.

"In 1983, my dad, Rod Thomas (owner of a construction company at the time), built the store for Española owners. The original owners became tired of the commute, so my dad bought the store two years later to provide a place for his kids to work," Steve said. Steve and Maxine took over management of the Taos Baskin Robbins in 1991.

Maxine added a bit of family history: "Many family members on both sides have worked at Baskin Robbins throughout the years. This includes siblings, nieces and nephews. In fact, that's where Steve and I met, at work during high school. This is definitely a family business."

Steve Thomas grew up in Taos. His parents, Rod and Sandy Thomas, now reside in Manassa, Colorado, in the winters and Mesa, Arizona, during the summers. Steve is the fourth of eight children. His siblings are Clay (Karen) Thomas of Georgia; Joe (Cynthia) Thomas (who met his wife at work at Baskin Robbins) of Taos; Carrie (Troy) Hayward of Albuquerque; Julie (Mike) Wilkins of California; Bill (Jhazmin) Thomas of Colorado; Jarom (Nicole) Thomas of Ohio; and Matt (Brittany) Thomas of Albuquerque.

Maxine Williams Thomas, a Taos High School graduate, was one of four children of the late Robert Williams and Julia Williams. Her siblings include the late Robbie Williams; Frances (Brian) Trujillo of Taos; and Paul (Amanda) Williams of Taos.

Steve and Maxine have been married for 28 years and have eight children. Most of their youngsters worked at Baskin Robbins and some of them continue to do so. In fact, on the day of the interview, two Thomas family daughters shoveled the snow in order to allow other employees to avoid the bad weather conditions and remain at home as opposed to working. "Everybody helps out," related their proud mother. The Thomas children are as follows: Oneta Thomas, a parking department employee at Taos Ski Valley; Erin (Paul) Romo, who raises two children in Hobbs, New Mexico; Laura Thomas of Taos; Daniel Thomas of Hobbs; Irene Thomas, a senior at Taos High School; Angela Thomas, a sophomore at Vista Grande High School; Emily Thomas, a sophomore at Taos High School; and Brian, a seventh-grader at Taos International School.

Two grandchildren provide enjoyable times for Steve and Maxine. Adelyn Romo, 3, and Hyrum Romo, 1 ½, recently visited from Hobbs during the Christmas holiday. "At the time, our house looked like a toy store," according to Grandma Maxine.

The couple works as a team, but at the same time, each one maintains responsibility for specific duties. For example, Maxine creates the decorated cakes (some of them customized) and handles human resources, and Steve works on the books and the store. Both train the employees.

The couple shared a memory to emphasize the family involvement in the business. When their eldest child, Oneta, attended kindergarten, she completed half-day schooling. At the end of class, Oneta rode the school bus to the store. Once there, she took a little stool and placed it in front of the cash register to "work." Oftentimes, the Thomas children rested in a car seat at the store during their infancy.

Store offerings include cones, sundaes, cappuccino, smoothies, dishes of ice cream and custom orders not on the menu. For example, a customer once requested a chocolate phosphate. The couple made certain to learn the ingredients - coke, chocolate syrup and soda water - and now make the item on a regular basis.

The store is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. "We might close early for unsafe roads due to heavy snow. We don't want someone to die just because they want ice cream," said Steve.

Maxine added, "You'd be surprised what people will do. Recently, two carloads of local people arrived for ice cream during bad weather. Someone was even wearing slippers."

Generations of families patronize Taos Baskin Robbins. Some children visited with their grandparents and continue the tradition. Some children look through the display book to check out the cakes, and even though their birthday may occur later, they select one for a future order. Many of the customers become friends of the owners, and every Tuesday, one specific customer visits the couple for a least an hour. A trademark of the Baskin Robbins ice-cream establishments in many locales includes seasonal flavors. January's flavor is Brownie Mash-Up. To date, Baseball Nut remains the overall customer favorite flavor. The Taos Baskin Robbins offers ice-cream sodas, a favorite not available in other Baskin Robbins stores.

The couple acknowledges the contributions of the Taos Ski Valley to the local business community because ski areas bring many out-of-towners to the area. When there's no snow, the domino effect means no rafting because there's no spring run-off either. A good snow brings in big groups. When the local businesses close early, Baskin Robbins remains open until 10 p.m. Most of the Thomas children like to ski, so the Ski Valley also includes a personal attachment to the couple.

When Maxine and Steve aren't working, they volunteer. Since 2008, they have provided respite care for foster children. Steve belongs to a case-review board, making recommendations regarding children in foster care to the judges for Children, Youth and Families Department. Two of the Thomas daughters participated in the Taos High School Culinary Arts program. The couple chaperones for competitions. Both Maxine and Steve volunteer for the church they attend, the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints. Maxine assists in the nursery with children aged 18 months to 3 years. Steve serves as the bishop for the Taos ward.

Meanwhile, back at Baskin Robbins, Maxine realizes, "It feels good to be part of a tradition, whether it's our own family, that of Taos residents or visitors. We're also proud because some of our employees work at Baskin Robbins through the generations of their family. Some of the parents of our employees also worked here years ago."

Her husband concurs and adds, "The fun part of our daily job is meeting people. I love Taos and its people."

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