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Find truth and inspiration in the paradoxes of the Wild West.

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The Christmas Donkey
Memoir: Sometimes border crossers have four feet.

Prelude to Enchantment
Fiction: An unexpected change in the weather

Leading Up to the Gila Wilderness
Award-winning poetry.

Loss of Innocence
Memoir: Two sisters' trip, before it all changed.

You Can Learn a Lot of Things from the Flowers
Essay: Sometimes spring comes just in time.

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Can't-Miss Decorating

Sol Imports in Las Cruces works to educate customers about New Mexico style. Plus: A.I.R.'s new owner, downtown Silver City musical chairs, Adobe Springs and Piñon Plaza for sale.


Spotlight on. . .

Sol Imports

Ken Montoya says he's here to help people put their decorating fears behind them. Sol Imports, the colorful Las Cruces furniture store he's owned with his wife Christina for six and a half years, is stocked floor to ceiling with handcrafted furniture, tiles and sinks, lamps and decorating touches, like hand-punched tin light-switch and electrical outlet covers.

Christina and Ken Montoya of Sol Imports, with one of the
Las Cruces furniture and decorating store's custom-made
hand-painted Catrina sinks.

The store does a lot of business with locals, he says, between southern New Mexico contractors and homeowners decorating and renovating their homes in the rapidly expanding Las Cruces-area market. Tourists passing through have also been known to buy a bit of local color and ship it to their homes all over the country. And increasingly, he says, customers find the store over the Internet.

"We ship every day," Montoya says.

He walks past the rows of furniture—some heavy rustic wood pieces, others elegantly curved hand-wrought iron. He points out a grouping of pieces with gaily-colored skinny pieces of wood.

"Salt cedar," he says. The slender twigs—inserted into sides of desks, hutches, dressers and chairs—seem in their natural state, except that they've been dyed or painted into a rainbow of colors Mother Nature never intended for the salt cedar tree. "It's all the rage right now, and it's a good thing," he says. The tree is a non-native invasive species that can drink 150 gallons of precious water per day—per tree! "Better in furniture than in the ground," he says. "And it does make beautiful furniture."

Tile has been another explosive area of growth for the store, Montoya says. After opening with just a few standard styles, Sol Imports now carries a whopping 180 patterns of 2x2-inch and 4x4-inch tiles. He carries many hand-painted options in traditional designs.

"People get scared off by all the color. They're afraid they'll make a mistake, so I show them this," he says, gesturing up the wall, floor to ceiling, covered in tiles of every color and design imaginable. "See? It all goes together. Sometimes they are afraid to trust their own decision, but I've never heard of anyone not liking the result after they did it."

The decorative punched-metal mirrors Sol Imports sells have blank borders, allowing the customer to customize with the 2x2-inch tiles, matching them to the room if they wish.

Montoya's proud that the tile he carries exceeds the quality of what consumers are used to. Many suppliers of Mexican tile say to anticipate up to 25 percent of the product being marred to the point of unusability, due to chips, cracks or paint irregularities. Montoya says his boxes are filled with 100 percent usable tile.

Sol Imports also carries Saltillo tile, a very popular traditional style tile that has become much in demand recently, Montoya says.

The store carries a large variety of Talavera and Mayolica sinks, also increasingly popular items, Montoya says. He gestures over a display of sinks he's contracted to have custom made. Using bright traditional colors, the sinks feature the smiling skulls of traditional Mexican "Catrinas," the mouth humorously positioned to accommodate the drain.

Starting in October, Sol Imports will hold classes to help homeowners feel more confident in tackling their own home-decorating projects. Montoya says a professional tile cutter will be on hand for the classes dealing with tile projects. And to take out the guesswork and further allay customers' do-it-yourself fears, he says his computer has a program that will calculate their tile needs down to the last square, so no one needs to fear running short or overbuying.

Philosophizing about design trends, Montoya points out a furniture grouping near his punched-tin display. "This is Indian, this is Mexican and this is Spanish. It all goes together!" he exclaims. "It's one of the most wonderful things about New Mexican style. This is a real cultural melting pot, and it all looks great together.

"I want to brainwash everyone into going back to the way it was," Montoya says. "With traditional New Mexican decorating, you just can't go wrong."

Sol Imports is located at 1701 Calle de Mercado, Suite 5, 525-9765, www.solimports.com.



The A.I.R. coffee roasting business in Bayard has been purchased by Louis Baum Sr. He and his wife will continue to roast whole-bean coffee for the business' wholesale supply contracts, and plan to add a cafe, perhaps with gallery and bookstore, at the Bayard facility. A.I.R.'s founder, Jacqueline Shaw, sold her Yankie Street coffeehouse last year in a separate transaction to Ruth Ann and Dean Poppe, who operate the shop as Dos Baristas, and who insist they are not selling their business, contrary to rumor.


On the move. . .

The copier/printer/fax machine retailer and service center A.C.T. Systems, on Broadway in downtown Silver City, is moving its storefront to 1008 Pope St., across from Ridgewood Motors. Manager Joseph Holguin says the new location will give the business more space. "You have to expand and go in more directions. This will give us space to diversify," Holguin says. Perhaps the new location has office-printing karma, having been the home of Southwest Offset once upon a time.

Toy Town, the independent toy store in Silver City that benefits Penny Park, will be moving up the street to 113 W. Broadway, taking the storefront vacated by A.C.T. Systems. Store manager Kim Godfrey says the toy store is planning a Grand Re-Opening Sept. 23. The new location will be larger and have more adequate stockroom space, Godfrey says, which will also provide office space for Penny Park staff. Godfrey is putting out the call for volunteers, and says workdays are planned to help ready the new space and move the store's inventory to the new location.


Economic Summit

The 2006 Governor's Summit on Economic Development will be held in Silver City, Sept. 12-14, with economic developers from across the state and national experts speaking on initiatives throughout New Mexico. "Creating Careers for the New Workforce" is the theme of the event. To register: www.nmsummit.com or
(866) 963-6000.



That happy roar you heard go up from Silver City at the end of August was over the long-awaited opening of Isaac's Bar & Grill, at the corner of Broadway and Bullard in the former Old World Bakery space. Congratulations to Bruce Helmig and his team.

And don't forget the upcoming two-year anniversary bash for Silver City Brewing Company on Sept. 2. Owner Bob Brockhausen says he's ready for the all-out daylong street party, which will feature a pig roast, Hot Rod Car Show and live music.


MainStreet update

August's Chair-ity Auction, a fundraiser for the Silco Theaterrenovation in downtown Silver City, was a huge success, bringing in nearly $8,000 for the project. Silver City MainStreet Project manager Frank Milan says the organization is now busy planning for the annual Taste of Downtown event, Sept. 23 (see events section). The WNMU-Silver City International Film Society (see page B1) will offer two free showings of the film Soul Food, at 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. at the Silco Theater as part of the Taste of Downtown event.


On the Market

Adobe Springs restaurant is up for sale. Long-time owner and Silver City town council member Steve May says, "My legs are tired and I'm ready to do something else after 30 years in the business!" The breakfast-lunch-and-dinner business is available as a turnkey operation, May says, for $120,000.

Piñon Plaza, which houses the Adobe Springs restaurant and 12 other businesses, also is on the market, listed with Coldwell Banker Enchantment Realty at $890,000.

Also in Silver City, owner Charlene Hayes confirms that the building housing Gila Trophies and Gifts on Cottage San Road is for sale. "It's just too big for us," she says of the 2,400-square-foot commercial building, which is listed with Re-Max for $185,000. The trophy and gift business will continue, Hayes says, at a site still to be determined.

The Cottages, a bed and breakfast facility on Cottage San Road, is listed for sale at $1,099,000. The property is being sold as a functioning business and includes 10 acres and buildings.

Daylight Donuts, Silver City's only doughnut shop, is on the market for $95,000, listed with Prudential Silver City Properties.


In Las Cruces

The Border Fair Housing and Economic Justice Center has opened at 1050 Monte Vista Ave. in Las Cruces, offering resources and recourse to locals with fair-housing issues. The office provides assistance to individuals who believe they have been victims of housing discrimination, including HUD complaints. Previously, such concerns had to be handled through Albuquerque. www.borderfairhousing.org.


Business Exposure is a monthly column that focuses on local business from all angles. Each issue spotlights a featured Southwest New Mexico business, and updates ongoing business items of interest. Feel free to suggest business topics for the column, and let us know about your own business' changes and newsworthy events; send to donna@desertexposure.com.



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