Great cities have great shops.
You know the ones: small, neighborhood mom-and-pop outlets offering foods, hardware, quick gourmet gifts to grab on the fly when you're invited for dinner. Oh! And milk. And eggs. Plus the odd onion, or lemon, or box of breakfast cereal, cup of sugar or roll of toilet paper—the little things you've gotta have (and sometimes really need), but just can't bear making a special trip to the "big" store for.
In the greater food business world, Santa Fe's grocery landscape is sometimes characterized as "boutique" given our small city's wealth of organic and specialty groceries. But what Santa Fe's got in food glitz and glamour, it lacks in "sweet, small and local," the kinds of shops New Yorkers or San Franciscans frequent daily for a pack of gum, sleeve of crackers, newspaper or thoughtfully prepared sandwich and cup of coffee on the run.
The east side has Kaune's and the tamale case at Johnny's Cash. And the Cerrillos Road corridor supports several carnicerías and mom-and-pop Mexican grocers, but the little places you can walk to and grab that "must-have" in a pinch are few and far between.
Pat Aranda, of the multi-generational, family-run plumbing and heating supply business of the same name, hopes to change that in the thriving Hickox/Agua Fria area that has been home to Aranda's Plumbing for decades. Aranda's has opened Aranda's The Shop (600 Cortez St. 983-7391), a new neighborhood corner store where Hickox meets Cortez Street, adjacent to family's plumbing sales office.
"The idea is to provide a service to the neighborhood," says Aranda. "We've watched as the neighborhood's density has grown. People walk around here—to the Tune Up Café, the park…Now they can stop in here for the odd potato, after-school snack, cleaning product or lunch."
Inside the small, spare shop, coffee drinks (latte, cappuccino, Americano and espresso) are brewed for two bucks, and a miniature pharmacy fills the shelf space behind the register. Need a comb? Trial-size toothpaste on the run? A quick rub of hand lotion? The Shop's got you covered. Plus, The Shop stocks household products (both eco-friendly and standard varieties) and light hardware, too.
When, mid-recipe, you need a tablespoon of lemon juice and your house is decidedly citrusless, Aranda's offers loose produce to the rescue from small baskets just inside the door. A simple central shelf is lined with ramen noodles, pastas and snacks both healthy and indulgent, plus basic, inexpensive hardware to go.
Inside The Shop's refrigerated case, carrots and loaves of bread from an Albuquerque bakery share space with two-packs of Posa's veggie or pork tamales. A selection of sandwiches—roast beef, turkey and tuna—is delivered daily from Tune Up Café's kitchen across the street, and Aranda's also offers baked goods—cookies, muffins and scones—from Tune Up in addition to the café's gluten-free, flank steak-based green chile stew.
If you've got an invite to dinner at a nearby home or, if you live around the block and are greeted with impromptu guests, Aranda's comes in quick and handy with cheese, salami and other antipasto-type products that go relatively easy on the wallet.
Asked about pricing, Pat Aranda notes, "We can offer good products at reasonable prices because we own the buildings here. Really, we opened The Shop because want to offer a service to our neighbors." If you slip in early for a quick morning quart of milk and box of cereal, you just might find yourself adding sausage, bacon, jam, yogurt, eggs, bread and OJ to your basket, turning a simple breakfast into a full-on brunch.
"That's what we're hoping," laughs Aranda, "that the community will come to rely on us for household needs…needs that go beyond plumbing!"