After working more than 30 years in banking and finance, one would think that Ken Carson would be looking forward to the calmer lifestyle that retirement brings. “I kept having a desire to start my own business”, Carson told The Paper. “I wanted to start another bank, because that’s what I had always done.” But the 2008 financial crisis put a stop to those plans. Up until then Carson had worked various financial roles, from bank teller in college to bank president in later years and even spent time in state government as director for the state’s Financial Institutions Division.
Having always been committed to customer service and community partnerships, and even basing his would-be Nexus Bank around those ideals, Carson decided instead to set his entrepreneurial sites to microbreweries. The inspiration struck after sitting down for a beer at Albuquerque’s Marble Brewery. “I always liked craft beer and thought that I could try to do this,” Carson said. Now, nearly 10 years later, Nexus Brewery features a host of unique drink selections, an award-winning New Mexican soul food menu and a sister BBQ restaurant location. “The intent was to be a brewery with some good food; and then, all of a sudden, the food took off and became a restaurant a couple of years later.” Even now, Carson continues with his commitment to giving back and has recently completed a partnership with Black Is Beautiful Beer, a collaboration to raise funds and awareness for the injustices that people of color often face.
Additionally, Carson has partnered with the American Lung Association and donates a portion of his proceeds to the Wellstead Foundation, a group home for kids. He extends the idea of building people up to his workforce as well. Carson offers full benefits to his staff and insists on paying his cooks a living wage by which they can support their families.
Perhaps as a testament to the Albuquerque business community, as an African-American business owner, Carson felt no level of prejudice or challenges while working to open his business. When COVID hit his business suffered because of restrictions and the initial uncertainty that people had to venturing out. “Sales dropped as low as 50 percent, but we’re back to 75 percent of what we used to do thanks to people taking out.”
When asked about the secret to his success, Carson attributes it to his background in finance and having the funds to start. “Primarily, the biggest problem for small businesses is starting with small capital,” he said. By leveraging his retirement, Carson was able to move forward strategically, without taking out a loan, and begin to establish his vision. “You really need to anticipate that whatever you think it’s going to cost, it’s probably double. Try to be prepared, and don’t use all of your money to open,” Carson advised. “Start off with enough money to start the business but have some in reserves, and differentiate yourself: Don’t copy other people’s visions.”
As for what’s next, Carson is looking to continuously improve and will be expanding upon the Nexus Blue Smokehouse location on Broadway Blvd. by adding a stage, bar and real smokehouse where they can make their own sausage as well as other smoked and cured meats.
According to Star Trek lore, the Nexus is an extra-dimensional Heaven-like realm in which one’s thoughts shape reality, and it seems like Ken Carson has found his Nexus. As a native son of Albuquerque, Carson hopes to serve as a an example of how one can turn any goal into a reality with the right plan, dedication and willingness to work hard.