ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Several New Mexico businesses will be breathing new life into Old Town come late spring.
Noisy Water Winery out of Ruidoso, and Sheehan Winery in Albuquerque, will each open tasting rooms in Plaza Don Luis.
The wineries will be joined by Outpost Brewing and Taproom, recreation retailer Happy Hiker, Texas-style barbecue joint Fat T’s BBQ, Lapis Room art gallery, pH Bar spa and salon, Flying Roadrunner Bakery and others.
An Airbnb operator will be part of the development and provide lodging.
A space is also being reserved for the New Mexico Wine & Grape Growers Association, now known as New Mexico Wine. Its presence would allow smaller New Mexico wineries to be represented, as well as bring awareness to the New Mexico wine industry as a whole, according to Noisy Water owner and winemaker Jasper Riddle.
The project’s concept is the brainchild of Riddle and a few of his friends and family that purchased Plaza Don Luis, and the Old Town Basket And Rug Shop.
“I think what was really for me is that I have a good group of like-minded people that are small business owners that see Old Town as a real opportunity,” Riddle said.
“And we’ve been looking (to come to Albuquerque) and when I came to this project I realized I was no longer looking for myself. I’m looking at a huge space that’s gonna take a lot of unique people, and a lot of love, and a lot of money. So that was something where I started reaching out just to the small network of people I had and it was crazy how quickly people started jumping on board.”
Riddle hopes to have a soft opening by Memorial Day and a grand opening in conjunction with the annual Christmas tree lighting in the plaza. For the time being, he plans to spruce up Plaza Don Luis.
“We’re going to do some really big improvements to it,” Riddle said. “You know obviously keeping what is the beautiful backbone of it and the property in its entirety itself. It’s not like anything would be torn down or changed, but painting improvements and really giving it some love and just kind of putting new legs on it.
“And then the hope is that we’ll be able to have events and different things, reasons for people to come.”
It is important to Riddle to maintain the plaza’s historic aesthetic
“We’re wanting to keep the historical integrity of the place because it’s such a culturally significant plaza and (its) buildings and it tells a story about Albuquerque,” he said. “What we want to do is be able to better it to where people can eat, drink, and shop locally, truly local with New Mexico-based businesses and New Mexico-based products.”
Riddle has met with current tenants in Plaza Don Luis who are excited about the wineries and other businesses moving in.
“They just give you goosebumps and it makes you happy to hear it,” Riddle said of the existing tenants’ enthusiasm. “And then you’re talking to people in their 70s saying like, ‘We needed this. We needed young energy. Old Town was old. We needed something young to come in.’ And that’s what we want to hear.”
Riddle’s 92-year-old grandfather has invested in the project.
“He’s like, ‘I used to love coming into that plaza and I want to see this happen for Albuquerque. I want to be involved,’ ” Riddle said of his grandfather. “And you know, it melts your heart a little bit. But you know, it’s kind of cool to see how many people were excited about this.”
Riddle is ecstatic to be part of such a historic part of New Mexico.
“You can’t duplicate Old Town,” he said. “It is something that is truly remarkable and it’s such a piece of New Mexico history. I think that personally, you know, no bias, but I think (Plaza Don Luis) is the best plaza in New Mexico.
“I guess that all being said, not that it’s lost its luster, but I think it’s time for Old Town to have new hope. … I think it’s pretty cool that you’re talking all New Mexico-based businesses coming in and making this happen together.”