Established in 1978, Blue Portal was the Assistance League's response to a request from the City of Albuquerque to start a program enabling seniors to have a place to sell their craft work.
The shop is supplied by some 350+ senior crafters and artists who show and sell their work.
On offer are a selection of goods from Native American crafts to needlework, glasswork and many other items.
OPENING HOURS :
Monday thru Saturday - 10:00 to 16:30
Sunday 13:00 to 16:00
What to buy: I bought some Native American pottery which was beautifully made - it was also nice to know that the full price of the sale would go to the crafter and that I was supporting someone local who might not be able to sell their goods elsewhere.
What to pay: Prices are exceptionally reasonable, in line with the crafters on Old Town Plaza or better.
Most of us know the drill: go to a new city, find the Whole Foods or the Trader Joe's, plunk down a load of cash, and take home the fresh produce and organic meats and amazing local cheeses and on and on. But nearly every city of any size also has a place the locavores patronize, and such places tend not to be chains so you might have to dig a bit (sorry for the extended metaphor) to find them.
I was lucky enough to stumble onto (or into) La Montanita about a decade ago, and it has grown since then and added a lot of interesting and useful items. It's still a wonderful place to get all the things you'd otherwise hit Whole Foods for -- and still a place where you should avoid buying some items which are available elsewhere at a significant discount. But for the quirky stuff, I don't think anyone does it better. On this last trip, I discovered that they were now carrying a wonderful line by Bass, of boar/nylon bristle brushes which felt so good on my head that I had to get one and a spare to last me. They also had the same wonderful Japanese wash clothes which I hadn't found since I left Tokyo. And their selection of chocolate, especially chocolate infused with chiles, is unparalleled.
What to pay: Most prices are somewhat higher than a major grocery chain store, but comparable to Whole Paycheck. My wonderful brushes were $14.95 each, and the wash cloth was $4.95.
Mariposa used to be one of my favorite stopping places in Albuquerque. For at least twenty years, it had an outpost in Old Town, and some of the most funky art you could wish for -- wire sculptures, milagros, Virgins-in-bottle-caps -- as well as more strait-laced stuff for real collectors. It seemed like the owners were having a good time, providing an outlet for some local artisans, and making money doing it.
I was really surprised when I came back in May 2011 to discover Mariposa had closed its Old Town shop and was now located on Nob Hill. It's still owned and operated by women, but I have to assume they are different women because the feeling tone of the place has changed dramatically, and not positively.
They still specialize in emerging artists, but apparently either the artists themselves have gotten snootier, or the sales staff (one is almost tempted to call them docents) have worked hard to develop the kind of supercilious attitude that drives me wild. Gone almost entirely is the funk, though I still spotted a display of milagros.
Ah, well. Just one place I don't need to visit on my next trip. If you visit, the shop is open Monday-Saturday 11:00-6:00; Sundays, they close at 5:00.
What to pay: A lot -- a primitive bird house shaped like a New England church was $125.00.
Every great city has to have a great wine shop, doesn't it? It didn't take long to determine that, in Albuquerque, that great wine shop was called Quarters -- and it has two locations, just to be helpful to those of us who crave the vine.
What I really appreciated was that the sales people knew their stock intimately, and had a particular expertise in the local wines. I would never have tried Gruet champagnes, for example, if they hadn't suggested them -- and I thought they stood up very well to my usual choices from Napa or France. There was also a good selection of half-bottles of wine at a number of price points, so that you hadn't to sacrifice quality for quantity.
If you're lucky enough to live close by, the Quarters Wine Club would be a good investment and includes a 10% discount on all purchases.
Open 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM daily.
What to buy: Gruet makes some excellent wines. Quarters will ship for you.
On a typical visit to Old Town, I'd stop at Mariposa (I've written about it elsewhere), but Mariposa has relocated to Central, some distance away. So after lunch, my friend and I were rambling along looking for something else when we almost lierally stumbled on Naranjo's. "Oh," said my friend. "I remember that this silversmith makes some wonderful bracelets. I'm positive she's the one who made the bracelet that was stolen last week. Let's go see if she has something similar."
It turned out that Stella Naranjo was still making custom jewelry, and even though my friend's bracelet had been more than twenty years old, Stella could remember the style -- and offered to make a new one for her. It was fascinating to see the various turquoise options from which to choose the main stone. Stella bemoaned the high cost of silver these days, but scupulously weighed what she'd need for the replacement and charged my friend only a very small sum for fabrication of the bracelet.
While we were waiting for Stella to bring out the selection of unset turquoise, I did a little browsing myself and found an exquisite pair of Santo Domingo earrings -- intricately set with lapis -- which I had to buy.
What to buy: Naranjo's has a stock of ready-made bracelets, necklaces, earrings, belt buckles and other items, many of which are crafted by Stella Narajo. She is also willing to make custom jewelry and handle repairs and appraisals.
What to pay: My friend's beautiful bracelet was a little over $100.00. I paid $48.00 for my turquoise-and-lapis earrings.
Great little shop in Old Town Albuquerque that sells not your average yarn. The colors were brilliant and all sorts of textures. I really liked the Noro yarns. They aren't cheap but worthwhile. I bought two skeins to make a scarf and it turned out beautifully. I'm looking forward to wearing it when winter is upon us.
What to buy: YARN
What to pay: A lot!
This Papergami store has a much wider variety than the Santa Fe location. The selection of handmade papers might be twice as much, and their selection of stationary and cards is quite a bit more as well. If you are doing some art project or want some interesting hand made paper to wrap a present, check it out.
What to buy: paper
This is the best category I could find for a barber. Located in the South Valley, it's home to Larry and his staff of barbers. The best times to go for a haircut are on Mon-Thu in the late morning/early afternoon since the kids are in school and the adults are at work. The staff here are all locals who do a great job of cutting hair and make sure they do it to their best abilities. Larry has owned this shop for years. Lots of South Valley people come here to get their hair cut. These guys do a good job on fades.
What to pay: The prices for a haircut are about 12-14 bucks depending on what you want.
I stumbled on this new website that lists shops and restaurants in Albuquerque. Some of them have coupons for discounts. Great way to find locally owned businesses that are out of the mainstream.
What to buy: Everything! :-)
What to pay: As much as you like :-)
This is one of the shops in Old Town that has a more unique selection than most others. They have a huge variety of folk art that is worth checking out before you commit to any purchases elsewhere. And whatever you don't buy, it is a good place to soak up the cultural vibe you get from all the pieces for sale.
Seeing as how there are possibly hundreds of art galleries and local craft shops, it might be a bit hard and time consuming to go through them to find that special something you want. If you get tired of looking at the same old stuff and you are looking for jewelry, then the IMEC is definitely worth checking out. The metalwork is outstanding and the jewelry designs quite unique. Even if you aren't planning on dropping money on jewelry, it would still be worth checking out because of the unique selection.
What to buy: jewelry
What to pay: from $100 to the thousands
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