ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Editor’s note: this story has been updated to reflect the correct name of the university that the founders of goPuff attended.
When Double Rainbow – the espresso cafe and ice cream store that would eventually expand its menu and change its name to Flying Star Cafe – opened its original store in Nob Hill, the stretch of Central Avenue it called home looked very different.
When the restaurant originally opened its doors in 1987, Jean Bernstein, president and CEO of Flying Star, said Nob Hill was mostly inhabited by aging businesses aimed at an older clientele: lamp stores, vintage furniture stores. She credited the restaurant with helping the neighborhood transition into a lively strip of bars and restaurants.
“Things have really, really changed a lot,” Bernstein said. “And we were really in that first wave.”
More than three decades later, Flying Star is looking to usher change into the neighborhood again, launching an ambitious remodel to the interior to the local chain’s original store. Bernstein said she hopes the change will ultimately help reinvigorate a neighborhood that has seen a series of store closures over the past 18 months.
“There’s been so much bad news in Nob Hill,” she said.
Bernstein added that Flying Star had been looking to renovate the restaurant for several years, but the slate of restaurant closures, which Bernstein attributed to Albuquerque Rapid Transit and delays in its rollout, had the company considering shutting its original location and opening a new restaurant elsewhere in the city.
“We had to think long and hard about it,” she added.
After deliberating, Flying Star decided to stay and renovate. The changes, which began Aug. 1 and are slated to continue until mid-to-late September, include significant alterations to the customer seating area as well as the back of the restaurant. The remodel will incorporate updated cabinets, wall coverings and furniture, in order to bring the chain’s original restaurant more in line with its newer locations around Albuquerque.
Additionally, the seating area will be restructured to incorporate more community tables. The kitchen will also be torn out and rebuilt. Bernstein said the renovations will be the restaurant’s most significant in 20 years.
“It’s not just gonna be a paint job,” she said.
While the slew of Nob Hill closures remains a concern, Bernstein said she’s been encouraged by several recent changes in the neighborhood, from large changes like the ongoing remodel of De Anza Motor Lodge, to smaller changes like residents remodeling their homes.
“There’s just so much interest in the area,” she said. “I feel like there’s so much value to the whole Central Avenue corridor.”
Uptown welcomes first dispensary
The trio of malls that anchor Uptown Albuquerque are home to a wide variety of shops and restaurants, but has yet to host a medical marijuana dispensary. Until this past weekend. On Saturday, Everest Apothecary opened the doors to its fifth dispensary in New Mexico, at 2201 Uptown Blvd. NE. Trishelle Kirk, director of operations for Everest Apothecary, said the company had been eyeing an expansion into Uptown for a while, noting that the vacancy rate in Uptown tends to be lower than in other commercial sectors of Albuquerque.
“It makes a lot of sense to be in the retail center of the city,” Kirk said.
In addition to having access to nearby medical facilities like the recently announced New Mexico Orthopaedics center at Winrock Town Center, Kirk said Everest benefits from having tenants like Total Wine & More, which she said brings a wide variety of customers to the area.
“It’s like the idea of a corner store,” Kirk said.
Everest has opened dispensaries in North Valley, South Valley, Los Lunas and Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights. Kirk said she expects the Uptown dispensary one of Everest’s most popular locations so far, with 80 to 100 patients visiting the shop daily on busy weekends. The new store will occupy 1,400 square feet along Uptown Boulevard NE, with 10 employees on staff. Kirk said the company intends to hire around five new employees. The story will be open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday through Saturday, and on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“Online convenience store” arrives in ABQ
Duke City residents can now have convenience store items ranging from diapers to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream delivered to their doors, thanks to a tech startup from the East Coast.
The Philadelphia-based startup goPuff started service in Albuquerque last week. goPuff allows users who visit the website or download its phone application to choose from a selection of more than 2,000 items – including snacks, beer and pet supplies – without leaving home, according to spokeswoman Elizabeth Romaine.
“We’re really excited to be in Albuquerque,” Romaine said.
goPuff, which was founded by Yakir Gola and Rafael Ilishayev in 2013 when both were students at Drexel University, was crafted as a way to make it easier for customers to get convenience store staples like beer and snacks, and has subsequently expanded to include necessities like dog food and diapers. Romaine said goPuff now operates nearly 100 storage facilities, each with more than 2,000 different items, in around 80 markets across the country.
Users place an order through goPuff’s website or mobile application, and the company will pull the selection off its shelves and hand them to one of the drivers the company contracts with. Romaine said the company makes an effort to get the goods to the customer within 30 minutes, and charges a flat fee of $1.95 per trip.
Romaine added that Albuquerque made sense as a market for goPuff because of its population size and the popularity of other delivery apps, like DoorDash and GrubHub, in the city.
“One of the things we love about Albuquerque is how digitally savvy the customers are,” she said.
Romaine added that the company has hired around a dozen employees, and is looking to continue adding drivers, who operate as independent contractors.
In order to meet its 30-minute timeframe, goPuff will initially not be delivering to Rio Rancho, Corrales, South Valley or far Northeast Albuquerque, according to communications manager Brigid Gorham.
As in other new markets, goPuff will initially operate from noon to 4:30 a.m. daily. Romaine said mature markets operate for 24 hours each day and have a wider variety of local items, including craft beer.
Stephen Hamway covers retail and real estate for the Albuquerque Journal. You can reach him at email@example.com or by phone at 505-823-3919.