ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A Barelas building that once housed Mike’s Food Store and more lately a church has been transformed into an events center, an indication to some of a business district that might be on the cusp of a comeback.
The current owner is another Mike — Mike Gonzales, the longtime owner of Barelas Coffee House in the neighborhood. While the Barelas Event Center has been open for several months, Mayor Tim Keller and other dignitaries made it official Monday afternoon during a ribbon cutting at the newly remodeled, 7,000-square-foot facility, at 907 4th SW.
“I love doing business and having a place that locals can call their own for breakfast and lunch in Barelas,” Gonzales said in a statement about the restaurant that has been serving up New Mexican-style comfort food for the past 40 years. “Now, I want to bring the same neighborhood spirit to an event center in the place I call home.”
He’s partnered with Marco Nunez, a professional musician who’s no stranger to booking venues, to run the event center. For several years in the 1990s, Nunez was the talent booker at the El Rey Theater in Downtown Albuquerque, as well as other booking organizations in town. Native Burqueño Marco Nunez said the nearly $100,000 in tenant improvements have been extensive and include a new wood floor where dancers can strut their stuff.
“We basically gutted the whole thing out,” he said.
Mike’s Food Store did business at the site from 1952 to 1985 when it was owned by the late State Sen. Michael Alarid. It was taken over by various churches until Gonzales purchased the space.
“The stage is large enough for a full orchestra, but it can also be configured to fit small bands and singer-songwriters, and I’d like to host a wide variety of acts from comedy shows to big bands,” Nunez said. So far this year, the Barelas Event Center has booked the Pink Freud show (a tribute to Pink Floyd) and comedian Steven Michael Quezada.
The space also is available to rent for weddings, reunions, graduation parties, dances, quinceañeras and other special events. The business will partner with several other long-term purveyors in the area to provide food and beverages. They include La Mexicana Tortilla Co. restaurant and Nob Hill’s Imbibe.
“It’s a huge investment, but worth it in the long-term,” said Nunez.
He and Gonzales like what they’re seeing on the Fourth Street corridor. In addition to their own venture, construction of the $4.5 million Zocalo Lofts mixed-used project is under way on the 500 block of Fourth Street.
B. Ruppe Drugs at 807 4th SW, once presided over by longtime curandera Maclovia Zamora, had been in business for more than a century. Now the space is being re-positioned by Barelas Main Street as a future center for natural healing and wellness.
Change also is in the works at the former Arrow Super Market at 1101 4th SW. The team behind Box Road, purveyors of antique, vintage and modern goods and wares, has purchased the building and plans to open a retail business this fall. “We are very excited to open our shop inside this spacious, deco-inspired building in Albuquerque’s historic Barelas neighborhood,” said the owners on their website.