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Blue Portal gift shop celebrates 41 years

The Blue Portal gift shop is celebrating its 41st birthday. The shop features artwork from local seniors. (Courtesy of Paula Schoeneman)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Part of the charm of the Blue Portal Old Town gift shop is the early 1900s building it sits inside.

However, the nonprofit group that runs the shop, the Assistance League of Albuquerque, learned almost two years ago that it might not last much longer without some major renovations. Crews discovered major structural damage to the floor, walls and roof according to volunteer Sally Ruscitti. The building was constructed in 1900 using terrones, adobe bricks made of sod or turf material that was found in the boggy river bottom of the Rio Grande.

“When they got in there, they found there was a hole under the floor where water had been running and it was unstable,” she said. “The base of some of the walls had decayed and the roof also needed work”

Ruscitti said the $500,000 in repairs were completed in June. To celebrate the completion of the renovation and the store’s 41st birthday, the league will hold a birthday party from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 12. The public can meet some of the artists and enter a raffle to win an original piece of artwork. The shop is at 2107 Church NW.

The Assistance League’s major fundraising arm is a thrift shop at San Mateo and Lomas, but the Blue Portal is completely philanthropic.

The Blue Portal sells the artwork of local seniors, allowing them to receive 100 percent of the profit. Ruscitti said they currently have about 600 artists who sale in the shop. Since the shop opened, it has sold more than $3 million worth of work from locals.

Ruscitti said she believes the shop’s success is linked to its ability to always have unique inventory because of the large artist base and its location at the same place for four decades.

“It was critical for us to stay in Old Town,” she said. “It’s where people know to find us.”

The Assistance League has several programs that provide essentials for children in crises, clothing and hygiene items for needy school children, clothing for assault victims, and clothes for the city’s homeless population.

For more information, visit and look for Blue Portal under its “Programs” tab.

“When people hear senior crafters, they think doilies,” Ruscitti said. “Our artists are way beyond that.”

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