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Giving in store

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Champion Grocery store opened about 100 years ago, becoming one of Albuquerque’s major gathering places and cultural institutions.

Now the grocery store has been gone for decades, but the building’s new owners, the Albuquerque Community Foundation, hope the renovated landmark will again be a Downtown destination.

The foundation, which provides financial and organizational support to other nonprofits, has been operating out of the building on the corner of Seventh and Tijeras since May, but held the ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Paul Marianetti, descendant of the family that built the Champion Grocery store, that donated the building to the foundation and funded the start of reconstruction. “I think my grandparents would be very proud.”

The exterior preserves its historical features, though the red brick is now painted white.

Downstairs, the building is full of conference rooms and offices, some of which will be available for meetings of local nonprofits, and upstairs, a formerly worn-down pair of apartments have become administrative offices on the western half and a soon-to-be-rented professional space on the eastern half.

Everywhere inside, there are spots of untouched history, including a wall of original brick and a viewing window into the many layers of wallpaper upstairs.

“We’ve been worried about it because it’s been vacant for years,” said Anna Muller, who owns a business consulting firm and lives nearby. Neighbors in the area are happy, she said.

“It’s been great. We’re happy it was done right.”

“There aren’t many ways in our day-to-day work to celebrate Albuquerque’s history,” said Diane Harrison Ogawa, the foundation board president. “This is a great way to do that.”

Ogawa also said the connection to the past is very important to an organization whose philanthropic mission is all about creating a legacy of generosity.

“I think it’s really a gift to the community,” said Alex Romero, president of the Hispano Chamber of Commerce. “The legacy of the building is huge. This is a tremendous gift to all of us, really.”
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal