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The Katz' Meow

Artist and entrepreneur Janey Katz sculpts a new shape for Silver City's downtown with The Hub retail plaza.

Story and photos by Donna Clayton Lawder

 

Janey Katz says you can't hide the obvious. "Hey, this used to be a car dealership. I mean, just look at it. It still looks like a car dealership to me!" Katz exclaims.

Katz has transformed the former location of the old Clifton Chevrolet on Bullard Street in downtown Silver City into an outdoor mall rechristened "The Hub." She points out some of the changes to the property, whose first new tenant, the Peace Meal Cooperative eatery, opened last month: Showrooms and bays have been turned into shops. A huge expanse of blacktop was ripped up and replaced by an open outdoor courtyard dotted with native plants and covered in crushed rose quartz stone. But somehow, quite wonderfully, The Hub has retained a bit of retro, 1950s-inspired funk.

Janey Katz with Manuel Lozoya in the space that will house his tortilla factory. (Photo by Donna Clayton Lawder)

"That's why we have the hubcap on our sign up there," Katz says, pointing to the logo, designed by Lisa Fryxell, that graces the curved-steel columns over a partially covered patio, part of the original structure. "I'm putting up some of my antique hubcaps here. Eventually, I'm going to put some of my old hoods up along this outer wall."

That's of course a reference to Katz' artwork. When she's not creating courtyards, Katz is an artist who creates metal pieces by cutting up old truck hoods with a plasma torch. Her "critters from the 'hood" range from small individual metal animals, to whole ensembles of dogs or cats draped over cartoony cars, to pooches leaning out of the window of actual car doors (such as the metal dog adorning a chunk of an actual 1965 Datsun sedan in "Dog Gone").

"It's an art community, so we have to have art," Katz says, pointing out the plaza's piece-de-resistance, "Family of Man," a Barry Namm stone sculpture in a fountain. The three whimsical stone "people" are geometric representations of a human family. When the fountain is in operation, as it was for Silver City's recent Weekend at the Galleries event, water gushes out of the figures' heads. Today the fountain is dry, finishing touches being made to the base. Workers tend to the surrounding landscape, a ring of native agave plants.

"I had my heart set on this piece because of the people in it. Silver City is all about the people," Katz says. "John (Rohovec) and Linda (Brewer) at Blue Dome (where some of Namm's work is exhibited) gave up most of their commission on this to make it affordable for me to have it here."

Katz' whole approach to the project, she says, has been along that "for the people" theme. A 1st New Mexico Bank ATM is installed at The Hub's entrance, a convenience that has been welcomed—evidenced by high usage—by nearby merchants and shoppers alike, she says. "It costs some money to put one of these in, and they're not making that money back. But it adds to this being a real 'hub,' and (bank president) Sean Ormand saw my vision and this opportunity. This is 1st New Mexico's gift to downtown"—where previously the lone ATM was in the Buffalo Bar.

 

Katz says she is building The Hub for Silver City locals. Sure it will be a welcoming spot for tourists, she admits, but her main goal was to create a relaxed, open space where downtown employees could come for a casual lunch or coffee break and sit. She's also drawing a unique group of merchants who will benefit from a plaza-style arrangement.

"Businesses that come in have got to be the kinds of things that benefit from walk-in traffic," she explains. "This is all about being a place you can walk to and walk from shop to shop. It's an integral quality of being a 'hub.'" The plaza's slightly rolling landscape, sidewalks and protective steel barrier-columns seem to proclaim "power to the pedestrians!"

Katz goes through the alphabet, naming the businesses already lined up to be tenants in The Hub—each slot identified by letter. "A" is slated for Diane's Bakery. Local restaurant owner Diane Holloway will use the space to bake for her Bullard Street eatery, as well as making goods for direct retail sale to the public. Katz says she thinks the business also will offer deli to-go items and expects it will be in operation "sometime this winter."

The next business bay along the row of merchants is still available for rent, Katz says. "I've had inquiries, but it has to be the right kind of business, something that benefits from a walk-in plaza. I've told a couple of people that if their business would do just as well on Hudson (Street, Hwy 90), then go there. We're looking for a certain character here. It absolutely all has to work together."

Next in the line-up, business bay "C," will be a tortilla factory operated by the local Lozoya family. Construction contractor Manuel Lozoya, who has done all of the stucco work at The Hub, says his wife and four children will run the business, making fresh tortillas on site. Lozoya says that in addition to selling tortillas retail to the walk-in public, he also is looking to secure contracts to supply local schools and grocery stores. The business will sell traditional corn and flour tortillas, as well as whole-wheat ones—all cooked fresh throughout the day. Lozoya learned the business by working with his brother, who runs an established tortillaria in Santa Fe. Projected opening is "this fall."

Next comes letter "D," The Marketplace, a group of merchants housed in one big space. Regular readers of the Business Exposure column in this publication learned last month that Arthur Young has returned to Silver City and that he and his family members will be starting up a new specialty retail business to open this month. Young also has coordinated a cadre of 11 artisans and merchants to fill out the eclectic and artistic offerings: clothing, furnishings, decorative items and more. Though open to other new participants signing on down the road, he already has a waiting list at this point.

"We're going to paint the floor purple," Young says, giving a sweeping gesture over the space. "We're doing everything as bizarre as possible." Dividers between the different businesses will be no more than five feet tall, he adds, to keep the open, airy feeling of a real marketplace.

Peace Meal Cooperative, a vegetarian sit-down and take-out restaurant, has just opened in business slot "E," a building that sits in the courtyard itself. Run by a cooperative of employee-owners, the eatery offers vegetarian and vegan cuisine, including vegetarian sushi, soups and sandwiches and an assortment of "live foods," dishes that are created without the use of cooking heat.

Pamela Patrick sits at the counter, eating a large bowl of miso-based soup and crunchy sesame-garlic "live-food" cracker the size of your average piece of bread. "The food is so nutritious!" she exclaims, then adds, "and it's delicious." She should know—Patrick used to own and operate her own vegetarian restaurant and coffeehouse on Bullard Street

Patrick points to a large painting hanging on the restaurant's wall. It's a warm, almost folksy painting of people working in a kitchen. The kerchief on one woman's head in the painting gives a "hippy-veggie" feel to the piece, the smiling young man who's coming around a corner dating the scene perhaps to the 1960s. The whole piece has a sort of "Moosewood-esque" feel, after the quintessential vegetarian restaurant in Ithaca, NY.

"It used to hang in my restaurant," Patrick says. Before that it was in the New Moon restaurant that used to be in the former Lusk Flowers and Gifts shop building at the end of Bullard Street back in the 1970s. "It's so good to see it here now. It brings everything around full circle."

Moving on down the alphabet and the line of merchants, the Hot Spot clothing store is letter "G." Manager Brisa Holguin says the store is doing well in its new location—it had been located in a storefront on College Avenue—and that she's excited about all the developments at The Hub. "Oh, I think it's going to be great for tourists and bring in a lot of people," she says.

 

The established businesses that now are part of The Hub business community agree. Mitch Hellman, co-owner with wife Starr Belsky of Alotta Gelato, the Italian ice-cream store that just celebrated its third anniversary (see the August 2006 Desert Exposure), thinks the plaza's creation—making Alotta Gelato position "H"—is a boon for many reasons.

"This is what should be done with open space," Hellman says. "We've lost this pedestrian-friendly aspect to our building and development in this country, and it's a shame. What Janey's doing here is a model, and a real service to the community."

Katz points out that there is no letter "I" at The Hub. "Nobody wants to be the 'I,'" she jokes, "and that's fine, because then 'J' is for Java the Hut."

A long-time business tenant, Java the Hut is a downtown coffeeshop with a decidedly cozy sort of funk. Owner Marcia Carlson has seen her fair share of changes, sadly losing her husband and co-owner Paul earlier this year. But on the positive side of things, she's now witnessing myriad positive changes around her shop with the advent of The Hub. She's pleased and looking to the future.

Carlson's regular customers have already been enjoying the coffeeshop's improved environs, she says. Java the Hut has a partially covered patio just outside its door. The Hub's emerging courtyard is a pleasant place to sip "joe" and jaw, and her patrons have been lingering, enjoying watching the construction progress, she says.

"It's really a good thing for the town," Carlson says. "It's going to be good for everybody, the locals and the visitors."

 

Senior Editor Donna Clayton Lawder also writes the
monthly Business Exposure column.

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