A TEACHER AND BASKETBALL COACH for more than 20 years, Dale Balzano started his retirement as a winegrower. When friend and mentor Paolo D’Andrea, of Luna Rossa Winery, in Deming, advised opening a tasting room for Balzano Family Vineyard’s wines, Balzano scouted the former home of irrigation district offices and the First National Bank in downtown Carlsbad. Along with his son, Derek, and business partner, Michael Moore, Balzano purchased the building in 2007. A Spirit of Seven Rivers tasting room wouldn’t cover the bills, so they transformed the 1892 brick building into the home of the Trinity Hotel & Restaurant. The former irrigation district office is now one of nine hotel rooms—and it still holds its enormous safe. Balzano has been the sole owner since 2012.
The building had tremendous problems. One of the big windows in the front had been shot out. The roof had water pouring in. The back wall was so damaged that if we hadn’t brought it back, it would have fallen. We had an 8,000-square-foot building with no heat, no air-conditioning, no water system, and power from 1905.
I’ll never forget the day our engineer finished drawing up the plans. I asked him what he thought about our project. He looked at me and said, “Boys, I’m going to light a candle for you.” Every time we faced a challenge and made it through, we said that he’d lit a candle for us.
One of the biggest challenges was that the historical society said every window had to be redone, even if we weren’t going to use them. It probably took five men over the course of four months to replace the ropes and weights in the windows so they would work—
then we sealed them shut.
We almost had to walk away from the project. The historical society wouldn’t let us move the doors on the bank side to create access from the lobby to the restaurant. At the last minute, they agreed. We cut a three-foot-wide spot and used the bricks from the wall to repair the damaged ones on the outside of the building. We still didn’t have a way to frame out the doors, which were made of longleaf pine from Alabama.
Then we had a miracle. We found runs of longleaf pine on the shelves in the safe. They’d been sitting there for 130 years. We built the frame for the door and had three inches of wood to spare. That was another time we said to ourselves, “That guy must have lit a candle for us.”