Friday, January 30, 2015


Strolling Picacho Avenue this week got me in the mood to do something I haven’t done in a long time: list my pet peeves.
Maybe I’m mellowing, but even in January, traditionally my crabbiest time of the year, the list is not long, but poignant. Right now, it’s focused on the way-lengthy street repairs and “improvements” that can damage — or even destroy — promising developments and quaint neighborhoods.
Like visitors and returning Las Crucens I’ve talked with recently, I’m delighted at the positive changes that have come to my querencia, from new buildings and downtown revitalization to the boom in visual and performing arts.
Still, I’m sad that Picacho Avenue is going through a rough transition these days.
When I moved here in the mid-1990s, it looked like my fave stretch of Picacho was on the verge of becoming a stellar attraction, a fun and trendy district, comparable perhaps, to Albuquerque’s Nob Hill District and some of the quaint neighborhoods like Goose Hollow and Multnomah that made life a creative adventure in my longtime home in Portland, Oregon.
There was a time when things were really hopping on Picacho and it was a great place to spend a few hours or most of a leisurely Saturday. Mel and Sandy Hester’s Coyote Traders was a sprawling wonderland of exotic finds that took up most of a block. Coyote Traders, Bob Gaines’ S,O.B. Antiques, Small Mall Antiques and a few other stalwarts anchored a stretch of antique, vintage and specialty shops that started just west of Main Street and stretched nearly to Valley Drive.
Wayne Hilton established The Gen!, a unique blend of old and vintage costumes and objets d’arte, and then renovated a building across the street that housed one of the most original home decor and gift shops I’ve encountered in a lifetime of international power shopping.
Other exotic emporiums followed. I can’t remember the name of the artist, alas, but I can still remember her vision for the sprawling rock building on Picacho, She decorated a patio, set up an art gallery, and assembled an eclectic group of vintage goodies for sale and was well on her way to establishing a kind of artists’ salon, with a tea room and restaurant on the horizon.
Then, a street “improvement” project began on Picacho Avenue.
At first, the creative souls headquartered on my favorite stretch of Picacho Avenue were enthusiastic and optimistic.
But the project dragged on. And on. For years. Those in charge were threatened with fines, which were eventually imposed, but nothing seemed to stop the delays. I lived in Picacho Hills in those days and the frustrating commute during that long repair era convinced me to settle in another part of the city.
Finally, the project was finished, but many of the fun little emporiums couldn’t survive the long siege that daunted even their most loyal customers.
Some of those who marginally made it through the transition couldn’t cope with the street reconfigurations and barriers that made it difficult, if not impossible, for customers to casually drop by and park at a favorite shop.
There have been some bright spots since then.
I loved Eyedazzler Gallery, the inventive enterprise of Bert Crisp and Jesse Williams.
In 2011, they brought new life to the street when they moved into the  old adobe at 1150 W. Picacho Ave., the longtime home and shop of the late Ross Bell, one of the region’s best-known estate sale managers and purveyors of vintage and secondhand goods.
In 2014, they decided to close and move to northern New Mexico. Maybe that would have happened anyway, but I still wonder what the street would be like today if that sincere and innovative burst of creativity had been nurtured, rather than strangled and nearly extinguished by a poorly planned street project.
I hope we’ve learned something, and that those creative seeds planted by Picacho pioneers will bloom again and flourish.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at, @DerricksonMoore on Twitter and Tout or call 575-541-5450.

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