Alum opens new hot spot

Johnny Beerling brings family restaurant to Flagstaff.

Johnny Beerling is the latest alum to join the ranks of the university’s School of Hotel and Restaurant Management (HRM) success stories, freshening up the plaza on Sawmill with a new family-owned Mexican restaurant, Someburros. Beerling, who is the general manager, graduated in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in hotel and restaurant management and a hospitality accounting certificate. Just three years later, he achieved his goal of opening and managing a restaurant.

Creating culinary success

As a teenager at Corona del Sol high school in Tempe, Arizona, Beerling discovered his appreciation for food made from scratch. Early on, Beerling believed his passion for food would take him where he wanted to go. That drive brought him to the university, where he could pursue his culinary dreams.

“I knew that NAU would be a great place once I heard about their HRM program,” he says. “I had my mind set by sophomore year of high school.”

Beerling’s fervor for flavor combined with the business and accounting classes available at the School of HRM was the perfect recipe to hone Beerling’s skills and prepare him for taking over his family’s restaurant. In addition to teaching time and temperature guidelines, accounting classes helped him see the big picture of running a business.

“To me, it wasn’t like school,” Beerling says. “It was going and just learning about the job you’re going to do. I feel like that’s what college should be.”

Sharing the family tradition

Beerling convinced his uncle, the owner of the Arizona chain, that Flagstaff was the perfect town to open a new location for Someburros, explaining that the location was key in the decision.

“We were walking around campus and I said I think Someburros would do great up here and I’d love to be a part of it,” Beerling says. “We’ve got a view of the peaks, we’re so close to campus. Flagstaff is such a food town, and we just wanted to be a part of that.”

Restaurants in Flagstaff share a strong tradition of community. Many of them are locally owned and operated, and more than a few HRM graduates have taken advantage of the opportunities Flagstaff’s community provides to open their own restaurants – popular spots like Tinderbox Kitchen and Louie’s Chicken Shack are owned and operated by HRM graduates.

A lasting impact

The time Beerling spent at Northern Arizona University helped him to realize his dreams, and his experience with accessible, mentoring faculty guided him in his career and still impacts him today.

One person who made an impact was HRM professor Jon Hales, who worked with Beerling to help him succeed both in the classroom and after graduation. He even helped Beerling get his first job.

“Johnny was a wonder from the start,” Hales explains. “He had the culture, he’s a hard worker. He was ready to start out as a manager and be one of our best.”

Hales has been teaching at HRM for 18 years and says he loves to see his students succeed. He understands his students and believes that they are what make the program special.

“It starts with the quality of our students,” he says. “They’re hard working, they’re realistic, and they understand the business. It’s fun to watch them after they study for a career in hospitality and see their career paths.”