SANTA FE — You can get a new toilet at Aranda’s Plumbing, Heating & Supply — and grab a roll of toilet paper.
Last fall, the 65-year-old Santa Fe business at 600 Cortez St. tore down some windows, added a door and opened The Shop, offering food, cleaning supplies and even toilet paper to its customers in the Hickox/Agua Fria neighborhood.
Business owner Pat Aranda and his brothers Nick and Chuck represent the third generation in a family that has run a plumbing operation since their grandfather opened it in 1947.
When Pat was growing up, he remembers both large and small mom-and-pop stores dotting the area around Hickox and St. Francis Drive. Today, area shoppers must drive to Albertsons, Whole Foods, Sprouts or Trader Joe’s if they need a potato to pair with their evening meal. The Arandas want to bring back the neighborhood store, where people stop by for some forgotten milk or toilet paper.
They say the concept is customer-driven.
For years, plumbing and heating customers have said they wished Aranda’s sold chips, coffee and burritos.
“Traveling to Europe, I was intrigued by these little, tiny stores,” Aranda said Monday. “They’re all independent businesses serving their neighborhood. We decided to start really small and make it gourmet.”
Gourmet as in oatmeal-cookie-scented bath soap, stuffed grape leaves and goodies from local vendors such as the Chocolatesmith and Chocolate Maven. You can also find Clorox, laundry detergent and Advil while grabbing a loaf of chile cheese bread with a pack of gum, a latte and some dog food. There’s even a blue corn piñon pancake mix. It’s like an upscale 7-Eleven with a decidedly New Mexican twist.
Aranda says the results have been “phenomenal.”
Purchasing manager Dion Casias said duct tape purchases “tripled” with the opening of the new store. “People will come in and get a mop, a bucket and a potato,” he added.
Over the holidays, gift bags of green chile and tortilla soup disappeared.
“We’re not throwing away milk,” Aranda said. “They’re gone by Wednesday.”
A ladder of black produce baskets near the cash register holds potatoes, tomatoes, onion and some garlic bulbs. By spring, they will hold a cornucopia of Santa Fe Farmers’ Market produce. The Shop donates out-of-date items to the St. Elizabeth Shelter.
Aranda keeps a request list; if two customers ask for the same item, he orders it. He added a decaf latte and some half-and-half at customer request.
“We ran out of digital thermometers and NyQuil,” he said.
But Aranda has his limits. One person asked for cigarettes, another for lottery tickets. “It’s just too much of a hassle,” he said.
Of course, convenience comes with a price. Aranda estimates most items cost 12 percent more than they might at a supermarket. “That’s because we’re not buying in bulk,” he said.
In a sign of the times, he says “five or six” shoppers have asked if he accepted food stamps, something he is looking into.
You can also grab a sandwich, a salad, green chile stew or a breakfast burrito made by the Tune-Up Cafe next door. Head chef Jesus Rivera once worked at Cafe Pasqual’s.
So far, the most popular sandwich is an open-faced chicken with green chile and provolone cheese, Aranda said: “You can buy a sandwich, chips and a drink for $7.”