Perfectly imperfect

This is my way of procrastinating. I have every intention of starting a new novel that’s been churning around in my head for a while, and I started working on a book of inspirational prose and poetry entitled, Echoes. And then stopped.

But I digress. This is about filling one’s time in the age of COVID. Lower case or uppercase? Depends on how pissed off I am when I’m typing the word. The restrictions caused by this pandemic keep loved ones from being with the people they need most – family. It makes me crazy, and yet… I know people in medical care of any kind are more vulnerable and I do not want my dear one to be exposed to the virus, so not being with him is in his best interest… I guess. I feel as though I am in isolation as well, which is ridiculous. I can – and do – get out and about, but life isn’t the same without him by my side. Enough of that!

BEFORE

And back to the topic. I’ve been doing other things to occupy my time, instead of writing. Well, not really, if you follow this blog you know I write now and then, essays and poems, and about local folks and how they are coping with Covid-19. But some of what I’ve been up to has nothing to do with writing at all: keeping my potted plants alive in this dry, dry weather; trimming the indoor plants so my patio doesn’t turn into a jungle; cleaning closets; working with Patti Romero and Susie Tsyitee (and now Mary Rose Henssler) in the development of the Las Vegas Literary Salon series of events for writers and readers; church committees and projects… and a real departure for me, painting furniture. I was inspired by Juli Salman and Angela Meron who are WAY better at this than I am, but it was something to do and I wanted to try it out. I’m also dabbling in watercolor, but we won’t go there. I’m a little heavy-handed with the brush.

Anyway, the table belonged to Bob’s mom. It has been painted and repainted a number of times. I suspect there is decent wood under all the layers, but I decided to give it a bit of flair, with what I consider to be a fairly decent result. It is perfectly imperfect in every possible way. Close inspection will reveal some quirks and mishaps, but I consider these to be marks of unintended panache.

The table has gone from being functional as a plant stand to being… I don’t know what the heck! Anyway, the table has been transformed and my writing is waiting in the wings. My book, Echoes is taking shape; I just need to get back to it. I’m writing a review of Ray John de Aragon’s latest publication, Eerie New Mexico, and will have an interview with him on my blog sometime next week. This is in advance of his spot as a guest on the Las Vegas Literary Salon’s Zoom A Visit With the Author, Sept. 27 from 4-5 p.m. And yes, this is an invitation to register and be in the virtual audience. Go to lvliterarysalon@gmail.com to register. Type September Salon in the subject line.

AFTER

Back to the table. I really enjoyed working on this piece. It took me about a week, not counting the drying time between coats of shellac. And it fired up my brain with writing ideas, so in terms of writing, it was not a complete loss. (Smiley Face Here!) Mostly it energized my flagging spirit. When you have a family member (in my case members) dealing with illness and you can’t be there physically, it does drain you and whittles away at your resolve to be upright and bright. You know what I’m talking about; having a positive attitude goes only so far when the control you thought you had is taken away. Covid-19 did that to many of us. Ask any business person, health care practitioner, those who have lost a jobs… You get it. You know what it means.

What the perfectly imperfect table did for me is help me remember that I’m not the sum of current circumstances; I am someone who knows that defeat is the end game only if I let it be. I have a choice every day to use what God gave me and make the most of it. So, back to writing and back to being creative in the best way I know how. I’m not the bubble gum pink table, I’m the bright new-looking one with something to say. I hope. Anyway, I will be doing it in my perfectly imperfect way.


Thank you for being a reader/subscriber. It is my goal to present informative, interesting and creative content on this site. Your likes, shares and comments are welcomed and hugely appreciated. I am an indie author of six books and two chap books of poetry. Check the BOOKS tab to find out more. Follow me at www.vandermeerbooks.com, https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks, Amazon Author Central. I frequently write about my town, Las Vegas, N.M. Occasionally I use interesting and helpful content from other sources. I also invite guest posts. If you have a topic you would like to share, send to fsharon@msn. com.

Dick’s patio open for business

Dick's back in the day
Dick’s in the early days

Dick’s has been around since 1940, managed and owned by the Dick Elias family. In 1974, the business was taken over by the Moore family and has, over 45 years since then, grown into a local favorite.

Owner Charlotte Moore, said Dick’s has evolved over the years from the liquor store, deli counter into a pub and restaurant.

“We have continued to reinvent Dick’s with the ever-changing times,” she said.

Dick’s has undergone several updates/remodels over the years. The three that created the most change happened in 1998. The owners built a two-story space over the parking lot as a two-level night club. The space is now the kitchen (bottom floor) and restaurant (top floor).

“In 2012 we acquired the Historic Serf Theatre adjacent to us, and in 2014 we restored it to house our special events venue, and finally in 2015 (five years ago), we transformed our liquor store/bar area from two areas to one room to house our pub/restaurant. The new pub area is cozy, brick walled reminiscent of an old historic building found in Chicago, New York, or Colorado,” Charlotte said.

Forward motion and innovative thinking could not overcome the unexpected reality of Covid-19.

“This has completely turned our business upside down, many new procedures are needed just to open daily,” she said. “Face masks are required as well as much disinfecting constantly, table condiments are eliminated, disposable menus are required. QR codes are used for menu access as well. Technology is the way of the future for sure!”

Food for thought
Food for thought

Just before the most recent closure to in-door dining, the Moore’s reupholstered many of their seating areas with virus-resistant fabric and increased to a higher level the percentage of disinfectant required in dishwashers, and running them at a higher temperature.

Now, the restaurant and pub customers are seated outside and served under a big tent placed on the sidewalk and parking spaces directly in front of Dick’s property. Social distancing is observed with tables spaced in keeping with health requirements. Masks are worn by patrons until they are seated for dining. Staff wears their masks all the time.

“We were only allowed 50 percent occupancy when we were serving inside. Our Venue (Historic Serf Theatre) is virtually non-existent since large gatherings are not allowed. This would have been one of our busiest years with weddings and graduation celebrations.

“Dining at Dick’s, for now, means being seated in our outdoor patio since indoor dining is prohibited under the current health restrictions. All tables/chairs have been strategically placed to assure social distancing. Condiments are available only in individual portions served on request. We have had difficulty getting crew to return. However, we have moved much of our venue crew to Dick’s to help with daily duties.”

Dick’s loyal patrons continue to accommodate to the changing rules at this popular eatery.

“We’d like our customers to be patient as we are conforming to special requirements. Many of us are running with a skeleton crew to provide our services. Things will be different for now and going into the future for the hospitality industry due to Covid-19,” she said.

“The most beneficial to me as a business person, is having such a great community to bounce ideas and advice on. Under Covid restrictions, daily tasks are a challenge.

“One great benefit is enjoying time in the kitchen – I call it ‘Back to Basics,’ which has given me control of so much – specifically recipes, labor and food costs. I have simplified my menu, which I hope will continue to bring my labor and inventory down as well as increasing our quality of food,” Charlotte said.

Her greatest concern moving forward is rebounding from closure for three months, becoming financially stable, and keeping staff and customers healthy.

“Throughout our 28 years here at Dick’s, we have had such a great crew working for us. They’ve become family/friends along the way, which has made Dick’s a special destination. We’d like to continue that tradition of providing a great place for celebrations of life. Cheers to many more years!”

Dick’s hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday – Saturday. For more about Dick’s, check out their website: dickspubandrestaurant.com


Sharon Vander Meer is an indie author of six books and two chap books of poetry. Check the BOOKS tab to find out more. Follow her at www.vandermeerbooks.com, https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks, Amazon Author Central. Please like, share, or comment – or all three!


 

Andy Trujillo: Calm in the COVID-19 Storm

Andy Trujillo

Massage therapist Andy Trujillo is a native Las Vegan, although he didn’t grow up here. He was born in one of the small buildings on the Plaza, but never thought he would return after his family moved to Albuquerque. His story is in his calming nature and you can hear it as Andy recounts how he grew into his profession.

“I feel like I have been doing massage most of my life. I have memories of massaging my father’s back and shoulders by walking on his back as a small child. I also remember doing the same for my uncles and somehow knowing where and how hard to press. As a pre-teen or a teenager, I remember my relatives bringing babies to me if they were fussy or crying a lot and I would know how to quiet them down very quickly and put them to sleep. Sometimes rubbing their tummies or just knowing why they were crying.

“My work was never truly satisfying until after I was injured in a car accident in 1990 and underwent regular massage therapy in my recovery. I knew in my heart that I could help people through massage and decided then to pursue my Massage Therapist education and license. I have been licensed as a massage therapist since 1992.”

Andy has owned his business for the entire 28 years of his career, and prides himself in providing a therapeutic, but gentle massage. He specializes in pain relief and practices on all ages.

“My youngest client was an infant and my oldest client was my 99 year-old grandmother. In my practice, I offer a combination of different types of massage to fit the client’s individual needs, including Swedish, Deep Tissue, Shiatsu, Polarity and Reflexology.”

Andy said COVID-19 down time was used to complete the the process of moving his office.

“When the health and safety restrictions were instituted, my wife and I decided to renovate a part of our home and create a new office during the time I was unable to work. The loss of income was worth it for me to allow me the time to rethink my business and how I would operate moving forward,” he said.

For Andy, the good that came out of temporary closure  was a renewed emphasis on continuing to provide a safe environment for customers.

“Massage therapy is truly an individual session, in close quarters to the client, so I now conduct my business with even closer attention to infection control practices,” Andy said.

His practice if fully reopened. He controls the number of clients he sees each week, which takes care of social distancing, but Andy also follows mandated restrictions set forth by health officials to protect his clients and himself.

“I have been cautious as I reopen by screening my clients and taking temperatures before we start.”

Andy will continue to maintain high-level precautions by limiting the number of people he sees.

“By spreading my appointments out, I have time to disinfect my entire office, including not only my table, but all the furniture, lamps, down to the pens I have for clients to use. I wear a mask and have my clients wear a mask during the session. I ask a short series of screening questions and take the individual’s temperature before we start. My wife and I have both been tested and are negative right now for the virus.”

Andy loves his profession and is committed to the safety of clients, himself and family members.

“I will not compromise on that,” he said. “I will probably keep most of the new precautions in place in my business even after we have a safe way to live in the world with COVID-19 because they make sense and provide a much healthier way to serve the community.”

Few are prepared when something as devastating as a pandemic hits. Andy said he was fortunate his professional organization provided the guidance he needed as he prepared to reopen with safety in mind.

Moving forward, Andy shared a concern many small businesses owners have, that they, or their clients might become infected despite all the precautions. He will continue to operate under the new guidelines, now and into the future. For Andy, it is simply the right thing to do.

Andy Trujillo Massage Therapist is located at 2910 8th Street. The entrance is on Williams Drive.

“I work mostly Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., but am available for weekends or later hours if needed.”

Contact information for the practice is 505 250-7928.

“Please leave a message if I do not answer. “I silence my phone and do not take calls when I am with my clients.”


NOTE: I am featuring local businesses, nonprofits, and organizations in this series of articles about how COVID-19 has affected our community . If you would like to participate, email fsharon@msn.com for more information.


I am an indie author of six books and two chap books of poetry. Check the BOOKS tab to find out more. Follow me at www.vandermeerbooks.com, https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks, Amazon Author Central. Please like, share, or comment – or all three!


 

The customer connection at Bar Castaneda

In the kitchenWhen COVID-19 hit in New Mexico, restaurateurs had the choice of closing or doing curbside service. Chef Sean Sinclair at Bar Castañeda kept that all-important customer connection by offering curbside delivery and tasty treats, including his award-winning Smash Burger.

Currently, Bar Castañeda is offering its dinner menu from 3 to 8 p.m., six days a week, closed on Tuesdays. Opening of the fine-dining venue, Kin, has been delayed.

“We do not have an opening date for Kin, but we are keeping a close eye on the ever-evolving situation to make the best decision possible on when to debut the restaurant,” Chef Sinclair said.

Sean said that at first, the COVID-19 impact was scary.

“Luckily, we quickly got to work and made tough decisions and are now in a pretty decent spot, all things considered,” he said. “The big impact is not being able to open Kin yet.”

He said that doing curbside pickup from the beginning was a plus for his business.

“It was mentally helpful to have support from our community through the scariest (so far), part of this thing,” Sean said.

“Contact tracing is a completely voluntary admission process. We do have a sign-in sheet and sanitizer station at the front,” he said. “If guests would like to help us in contract tracing, they are welcome to do so. However, we are not requiring a sign-in for entry. We are requiring a mask to enter the premises. No dogs are allowed to join diners at this time, unless they are certified service animals.”

Sean said all tables, chairs, service ware, and all surfaces are sanitized before and after use.

On the padio“We are not seating guests inside at this time. We have a spacious patio and outdoor dining is much safer. All tables are generously spaced beyond any social distancing standards. Guests also must wear masks everywhere on the property except when seated and dining,” Sean said.

He said Bar Castañeda is back to normal, pre-covid hours. “Hopefully we will expand beyond that in the near future,” he said.

Recovering from a setback like a pandemic isn’t something you can prepare for. As Sean and Katey get back to normal they want their customers to know, they’re okay.

“We aren’t going anywhere and I am so grateful for everyone’s support through these increasingly difficult times. We are taking every precaution possible to keep everyone safe while dining in our establishment. We are thankful for everyone’s patience and help while patronizing our restaurant. We are doing our best to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 while still remaining open.”

Sean’s greatest concern currently is that most – if not all – data points regarding this current health climate are getting worse, not better.

“If we are forced to close again, it would be challenging. That being said, we would be more prepared for a second closure than we were for the first.

“Katey and I feel lucky to have opened our business in the wonderful city of Las Vegas, New Mexico. The local people have been so supportive of both our business and the mitigation of COVID-19. I have never lived in a city more united, or in a place I am more proud to call home. Stay strong everyone; we will get through this together.”

For more about Bar Castañeda and Kin go to kinlvnm.com


NOTE: I am featuring local businesses, nonprofits, and organizations in this series of articles about how COVID-19 has affected our community . If you would like to participate, email fsharon@msn.com for more information.


 

Young entrepreneurs pay it forward

LilKLilKy Spa Products is an unusual business with two enterprising young ladies at the helm. Lily Arguello and Kylie Lopez, 10-year-old best buds, took their idea from a dream to a reality in January of 2019. After attending a tea party where they used a hand scrub, the two became intrigued by the idea of it and whether they could create similar products on their own. The two took what they thought of as a fun idea and – with the help of their moms – turned it into a growing enterprise. Lily and Kylie started with hand scrubs but their business has expanded and now includes hand/body scrubs, lip scrubs, lip balms, and body butter.

Surprisingly, Covid 19 helped the two entrepreneurs get back into business. They had stopped making scrubs for a while, but decided to make the products again and donate profits to a local organization.

A good cause“They sold enough to donate $1,000 to The Las Vegas Vegabonds in May of 2020,” said Kylie’s mother, Katherine Lopez. “They did this because they wanted to help people in our community get the food that they needed.”

LilKy Spa Products are produced in the homes of Lily and Kylie. Before Covid-19, the two worked together to make the scrubs and balms, but now make them separately. Products are sold on Facebook and Etsy.

“We want everyone to know that we make good products. We really want to grow our business and add more products, such as hand sanitizer, which we are currently testing,” Kylie said.

“Our customers’ support has been important during this difficult time. They have purchased a lot and have helped us to grow our business,” Lily said.

The two agree that their greatest concern moving forward is that the business won’t make it, but their concerns may be premature. Recent orders are encouraging. Returning and new customers are buying more products, which gives them an optimistic view of the future for their growing business.

Order products at:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lilkyspaproducts/
Etsy: Etsy.com/shop/LilKySpaProducts
E-mail: lilkyspaproducts@gmail.com


NOTE: I am featuring local businesses, nonprofits, and organizations in this series of articles about how COVID-19 has affected our community . If you would like to participate, email fsharon@msn.com for more information.



 

 

DO NOT GET SICK OR HURT!

Smile away the bluesCOVID-19 has become painfully personal. No, I don’t have it, and neither does my husband Bob, but he did fall and break his left femur and consequently ended up in Santa Fe at Presbyterian where he is – as I write this – in surgery. It is, a doctor friend tells me, a short and straightforward surgery, one he has had before on the other side. The personal part of this is that I cannot be with him or see him after surgery. Strict rules regarding patient safety in the age of COVID-19 prevents family members from seeing or being with their loved ones while they are hospitalized.

I’ve read about other people going through this, but you don’t “get it” until it happens to you.

The surgery is the first step. Following that he will have PT. The last time this happened three years ago, he was away from home for nearly six weeks, but I could be with him during the day and keep him supplied with newspapers for reading and Starbucks from Charlie’s to make him smile. Can’t do that this time!

Frustrating? Yes! There must be a better way. And yet, I know because of the precautions the local re-hab/nursing home has taken, it has had no cases of COVID-19. So, if Bob has to be in re-hab, I would hope he could do it in Las Vegas where I could at least wave at him through the window.

I believe hospitals are doing the right thing to protect patients and the public, but that doesn’t make it easier. Please keep my dear one and me in your prayers. And to all our friends and neighbors who have been through – or are going through – similar circumstances, prayers lifted for you all! I no longer simply sympathize, I understand.

Oh, crap! An update. Bob’s surgery was supposed to be at 3 o’clock this afternoon; now postponed by a day because they couldn’t get him into the surgery schedule! This means at least another day added to the estimated 4-day hospital stay. AAAAARRRRGH!

One day at a time, Sweet Jesus, one day at a time.


I am an indie author of six books and two chap books of poetry. Check the BOOKS tab to find out more. Follow me at www.vandermeerbooks.com, https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks, Amazon Author Central. I frequently write about my town, Las Vegas, N.M. Occasionally I use interesting and helpful content from other sources. I also invite guest posts. If you have a topic you would like to share, send to fsharon@msn. com.


 

My Town – Las Vegas, NM

Eighth Street - Las Vegas, NM

So, what would you like to share about Las Vegas – NM that is? I’ve decided to be more intentional about posting information about my home town, a little community with amazing potential. In the middle of a pandemic, people stepped up to help each other, to make masks, to encourage one another, to make the most of a bad situation. Now we’re getting back to business and hopefully on the road to normal as defined post-COVID-19. I’m a one-person operation, so I rely on you to contact me if you would like your story posted here.

Here are links to articles posted so far:

The Las Vegas Economy: MSLV Initiatives Attack the Virus
Tortillas, donuts and more, Oh My!
Skillet Casting its Culinary Magic
Las Vegas NM Community Foundation
Small business, big heart: Unikat Fine Jewelry
Semilla Natural Foods, a nurturing environment

I welcome you to be a part of this series. Articles will be posted as responses to questions are received. Reserve your spot now. I’m looking forward to sharing news about you and your business, nonprofit or organization.

There is a mix of content on this site. I am, after all, a writer, so you will continue to see poetry, essays, short stories and whatever else I decide to post. If you have a Las Vegas, NM, article idea, share it with me at fsharon@msn.com and I will follow up.


Please become a follower to receive updates when new content is posted. Thanks for reading, liking and sharing this post.


 

Small business, big heart: Unikat Fine Jewelry

Jeweler Andrea GotschalkUnikat Fine Jewelry opened its doors in Las Vegas, N.M., in May of 1998. Owner Andrea Gottschalk has been a self-employed jeweler since 1988 and subcontracted with many jewelry stores in the Santa Fe and Las Vegas area prior to opening her own gallery. Her store at 160 Bridge St., provides space for seven large showcases and plenty of room for paintings, Navajo rugs and other wall art.

Andrea studied to become a jeweler in Germany, her home country. Most of her skills stem from hands-on training with various master jewelers around the globe. She traveled to countries around the world from 1985 to 1987, seeking out jewelers to teach her new skills. In this way, she became versatile in technique and skill level. It is her strong suit as she moves into an uncertain new normal.

“I offer custom design, repairs, watch services, and ear-piercing. I have showcases filled with jewelry from many local artisans and of course, my own designs,” Andrea said. Unikat Fine Jewelry sells wedding sets, antique jewelry, men’s and children’s jewelry. Items are available in gold, silver, copper, titanium, stainless steel and just about every precious and semi-precious gem stone set in jewelry. If Andrea doesn’t have what you’re looking for, she will order it, or make it for you.

Andrea made Las Vegas her home in 1996. “I’m happy to have been able to maintain my store here for 22 years.”

As with many stores deemed non-essential in the early days of COVID-19, Andrea had to close her doors to the public in mid-March.

“There was no guarantee of re-opening. I remained closed until June 15, three months of no business,” Andrea said. “I am open by appointment and at reduced hours because business has been slow and spotty.” She encourages customers to call ahead (contact information below) to make sure the doors are open.

As a self-employed owner-entrepreneur, Andrea used a strategic approach to keep her business as financially secure as possible, while accessing much-needed income. She received money from an emergency relief fund through the Small Business Development Center and state unemployment when it became available for those who are self-employed.

“Without that I would have had to consider closing for good should the pandemic and resulting restrictions to small businesses continue for many more months,” she said.

Andrea’s other “job”, albeit a volunteer position, continues to further the support efforts of the Las Vegas First Independent Business Association (LVFIBA). As its president, Andrea coordinated weekly Zoom (virtual) meetings of the association.

“LVF has been a good source of information on what financial assistance people can apply for since they stay in close contact with the small business administration office up at Luna, and were always able to update business owners on what help is available,” Andrea said.

Zoom meetings helped LVF members stay connected, supported, and sometimes acted as a place to share grief and anxiety during COVID-19’s uncertain times.

“It’s also nice to be able to join a meeting wherever you are in the moment. That has attracted more members to participate and bring in leaders from other organizations,” Andrea said. “This way we were always able to share helpful information with each other and every organization, and City of Las Vegas staff Through Zoom, we were able to provide guidance and help to each other.”

With positive energy running through her comments, Andrea notes that she is current on ALL her repairs and custom-orders. That means that turn-around time for pick-up is minimal.

“My customers will be most happy to hear this news, since in very busy times waiting has been as long as six weeks!”

The common challenge for owner-operators of small businesses going forward is having revenue coming in the door. Andrea feels it deeply for herself and others who are in the same financial boat.

“Once you go over the amount of your base unemployment, you get thrown out of the system. You make some money now, but still not enough to cover your expenses, and then unemployment runs out. It could take months for businesses to return to normal and be financially stable,” she said.

Andrea encourages everyone to engage in the MainsStreet de Las Vegas shopping experience Cash Mob, an online live shopping event held every Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Local stores will be featured each week.

“The first one with New Moon Fashion was an incredible success,” Andrea said. “Items for sale are presented by a host and viewers on Facebook reserve the item they want to buy, then pick up and pay for the item in the store the next day.

“It’s a great way to avoid crowds and still support your local economy! All store owners who are interested will get a turn. Contact mainstreetdelasvegas@gmail.com for more information and to sign up.”

Andrea continues to be a strong advocate for small businesses and expressed deep appreciation for the small town she chose as her home 24 years ago.

“I appreciate all my customers who give me so much positive feedback all the time, but especially now for hanging in there. I love this little town and have made the most precious connections and friends out of my client base,” Andrea said.

“I am planning to be open full time soon, but for now I appreciate the patience and understanding for limited hours and calls for appointments until the crisis has stabilized.”


Unikat Fine Jewelry
160 Bridge St.
Las Vegas NM 87701
Phone: 505-425-6113
Cell: 505-617-6113


 

Semilla Natural Foods, a nurturing environment

Semilla Natural Foods

At age 17, Jane Lumsden opened Semilla Natural Foods in 1971 with her boyfriend at the time.

“We were excited about the natural foods and healthy lifestyle movement that was happening in the ‘70s. We left Santa Monica, Calif., and found Las Vegas, N.M. We decided this would be the perfect spot to open a natural foods store. Over the years as the natural foods movement grew, so did our store. Eventually, I became the sole owner and continued to expand and serve the community.”

Semilla’s growing clientele is a testament to Jane’s determination to bring a unique and much-needed shopping experience to the area. When COVID-19 forced closure of many businesses in March, Semilla Natural Foods remained open because as a grocery store, it was considered essential. Little did Jane and her staff know what an impact that would have.

“When restaurants closed and people were ordered to stay home, widespread panic about food and supplies shortages had people running in to buy as much groceries as their pantries and monies allowed,” Jane said. “Our business and our demand grew exponentially overnight. Myself and my employees had to put in more time and effort for the increased demand. Our store became a place where people needed to feel hopeful. On top of being able to provide the increasing grocery needs within our community, we also had to provide emotional and mental encouragement to our patrons.”

Semilla’s clientele grew as regular customers continued to come in to do their shopping, and new customers began to arrive from surrounding areas, people who didn’t want to be exposed to big cities like Santa Fe where they would usually do their shopping.

“We even had new customers from within our city come to us because they didn’t want to risk exposure at the big chain stores,” Jane said. “Our orders increased by three times and we also became a designated donation drop-off location for several groups that worked towards providing food to community members and to our local animal shelter. Our community stepped up in a huge way and the response to helping those in need was incredible. We donated cases of food ourselves.”

Jane said Semilla has a large elderly customer base so her priority was to make the store a safe space for them and consequently for all patrons and employees.

“We could not afford to have a single employee get sick and we were all working overtime. We had regular employee staff meetings to check in and make sure everyone felt safe coming to work as the rest of the country was staying home.

“I reiterated that anyone who felt uncomfortable coming to work or felt sick could stay home with pay. Not one employee hesitated about continuing to work, and I am so grateful to all of them,” Jane said.

Communication about safety continues to be a constant among staff. During store hours, masks are required for employees and customers, and social distancing is encouraged and adhered to as much as possible. For a time during heightened awareness of possible COVID-19 spread, Jane and her staff were required to limit the number of patrons allowed in the store.

“We began offering free curbside pick-up and at home delivery within city limits for patrons who didn’t want to risk exposure. Overall, our customers have been incredibly gracious and patient with us and our new policies,” Jane said.

With the state opening more and more, Semilla follows the state and city-mandated recommendations requiring customers and staff to wear masks.

“We’ve been able to team up with the Las Vegas Peace and Justice Center to provide masks to people who do not have one. We want to continue to be as safe as we can for our patrons. We all dislike having to wear our masks, but fully believe that it protects our customers. We will continue to honor what science tells us works.”

SemillaBusiness for Semilla increased because of the pandemic, but Jane’s concerns for her staff remained. “I wanted to make sure my employees were going to be taken care of in the long run. I applied for the PPP loan (Payroll Protection Program), and the SBA loan, mainly because I had no idea what the future was going to hold.

“Our application was not accepted during the first round of the PPP, but our bank, Community First, worked diligently to ensure that we were on the list for the second round. Las Vegas First IBA (Independent Business Alliance) and Luna Community College offered information and support during this time as requirements were continually changing. Thankfully, I had someone in-house who could navigate through this complicated process. The SBA loan took months to come in.”

As Jane reflects on COVID-19 and its lingering presence in a time of uncertainty, she is grateful.

“If I could say anything about these past few months, it’s that Semilla cares. My employees did an incredible job to make sure our community knew Semilla was a safe and welcoming space for all. We worked hard to keep our shelves stocked and adapt to people’s new shopping habits. We all came up with innovative ways to give back to our small community and we ensured everyone had access to fresh and healthy food.

“As people resume their previous shopping habits and begin to eat out, we have no idea what the future will bring for Semilla. Hopefully people will realize the importance of shopping locally, supporting local businesses so Las Vegas can once again pick up where we left off; at a time of exciting growth and recognition. We need to stick together. This is a great community,” Jane said.

“As things begin to open back up, COVID-19 is still a huge concern and we are going to continue to practice safe policies. Semilla will continue to offer the best in natural, wholesome foods and products for individual health and the health of our planet,” Jane said.


Images: Courtesy Semilla


Semilla Natural Foods
510 University Ave.
Las Vegas, NM
(505) 425-8139
http://www.semillanaturalfoods.com
https://www.facebook.com/SemillaNaturalFoods/


NOTE: I am featuring local businesses, nonprofits, and organizations in this series of articles about how COVID-19 has affected our community . If you would like to participate, email fsharon@msn.com for more information.


 

Tortillas, donuts and more, Oh My!

Charlie SandovalCharlie’s Spic and Span Bakery and Café is an established eatery owned by only three people during its more than 60-year history. Founded in the early 1950s, its primary offerings were chile and tamales. Carmen Fernandez expanded the bakery and added breakfast and lunch. In 1998 Charlie and Elizabeth Sandoval acquired the Spic & Span and have added fresh-made tortillas and increased the menu items. Its core reason for being is to serve customers Northern New Mexico cuisine and good old-fashioned comfort foods in a friendly atmosphere. Generous portions, fresh ingredients and friendly service are the standard.

COVID-19 brought everything to a screeching halt on March 15. Charlie’s, and many other businesses deemed non-essential, closed and their owners wondered what to do next, and what to do now that restrictions have been partially lifted.

Charlie, his trademark smile and optimism firmly in place despite what his business has been through, said, “I’m a lot slower, now. By 50 percent!”

That is somewhat a consequence of restrictions that limit restaurants to half their capacity, plus reluctance by some long-time customers to venture out.

Charlie’s was closed for two months, time spent on ongoing repair and maintenance and some sprucing up. He opted to start curbside pick-up service on May 15 and in-house dining on June 1.

Signs of the times
The sign on the left reads: STOP We wear our masks to protect you and your family. Please wear your mask to protect us and our families. Thank you, Charlie’s crew.

As a customer, you’re required to wear a mask to enter, sign in with your name and phone number, and wash your hands with a sanitizing solution. Of course, you can take off your mask once you sit down. Servers, however, must keep theirs on. If you’re ordering to-go, you’re asked to keep your mask on and observe social distancing (six feet apart).

 

Although Charlie’s Bakery and Café is now open for in-restaurant dining, the café is operating on reduced hours, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. “It’s been a slow start. I guess a little revenue is better than nothing. I’m trying to make good business decisions to benefit my employees and my operation.”

Donuts and moreOne program that has been of great help to the restaurant is the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). “This program has really saved my business,” Charlie said.

“I want to thank my friends, customers and family for all their support and ask that they please bear with us on all these new changes. I have a lot of good customers and a lot of them are my good friends now. I hope one day we can be normal and operate freely like before, without so many restrictions.”

Charlie’s Bakery and Cafe continues to serve a full menu, has fresh tortillas daily, and dessert favorites like apple fritters, donuts, sugar cookies, biscochitos, cream puffs and more.


Charlie’s Bakery and Café
715 Douglas Ave.
505-426-1921


NOTE: I am featuring local businesses, nonprofits, and organizations in this series of articles about how COVID-19 has affected our community . If you would like to participate, email fsharon@msn.com for more information.