After seven years of chops and dye jobs on Montezuma Avenue, the Blue Monkey Salon and cosmetology school-a regular winner of SFR readers' Best of Santa Fe prize for best hair salon-will shut its doors on Jan. 15. Co-owner Nicole Carter wrote a letter to SFR on Jan. 6, saying goodbye.
Two days later, Carter says she began the procedure to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Within a matter of weeks, Carter tells SFR, she and her 10-year-old shar-pei mix, Kiko, who has spent everyday at the salon since it opened, will move to Tucson, Ariz., to live with Carter's sister.
Blue Monkey was squeezed out of its 5,000-square-foot home of three years to make room for Santa Fe County's new court complex project. SFR and the rest of the local media have reported the tense tale of development from its start in 2004 until the final sale of the building last month.
"It's never good when we lose a business, regardless of what it is, and certainly this is surprise," County Commissioner Harry Montoya, whose district encompasses the site, tells SFR.
"I had no idea they were even in a financial state as far as bankruptcy. Our staff has been working with them to relocate, and I thought that was moving along."
When the Santa Fe New Mexican reported Dec. 1 that Santa Fe County paid $2.6 million to the Barker family, who owned the property, Carter was optimistic about her prospects since the price was $1 million more than the assessed value.
"Up until about a week or so ago, it seemed [the county] was going to take care of Blue Monkey," Carter says. "Everything was going smoothly and after the building sold for $1 million more than it was worth, everyone thought that was great news, they were going to be so generous."
However, the final $110,000 settlement figure came in far below expectations. Carter had already closed the school in order to prepare for a move to another downtown location-the CounterPoint Tile Building on Aztec Street was a possibility-but once she calculated the cost of reconstruction, including the installation of new booths for Blue Monkey's six stylists, she realized it would be impossible.
"I've searched all of downtown for a new location," Carter writes in her letter. "It will be impossible to even come close to replicating my current building, parking and rent situation. No available building downtown is large enough for both the salon and the school, and if it is, it is nowhere near a rent I can afford."
According to county records, the new $55 million courthouse will need to be approximately 120,000 square feet and three or four stories tall. It will host eight formal courtrooms, four large hearing rooms and office space. The Blue Monkey building is one of four, including the Paramount Nightclub, the Enacon building and the First Judicial District Attorney's office building on Sandoval Street, that will be replaced by the courthouse.
Montoya says the extra $1 million paid to the Barkers compensated for the potential revenues the family would have made through a bed-and-breakfast business planned for the property. Because Blue Monkey was a tenant as opposed to an owner, the salon was in a significantly weaker negotiating position.
SFR reported two years ago [Outtakes, March 22, 2006: "Blue Monkey Blue"] that Carter and her partner Joel Hobbie (who are currently in the process of a divorce), had sunk $30,000 into remodeling the Montezuma shop space and opening the school. They also had taken out $70,000 against their home, which Carter says they may lose in the bankruptcy.
Outstanding appointments should be considered cancelled, though clients may contact their stylists personally; the phone numbers will be available on the Blue Monkey voicemail: 820-0654.