I was surprised at the response from some of the local businesses. I am a lifelong resident of Santa Fe, with my family having come up the Camino Rael in 1598. My first “Plaza” job was at First National Bank in 1978, and back then Zook’s, Capital Pharmacy and Moore’s were still on the Plaza.
But even then, the Plaza was not the Plaza of my grandparents because their Plaza changed when John Gaw Meem presented his ideals for Pueblo Revival style. Facades were put up to change the look of the Plaza, and thankfully the Catrons refused and kept their building as it is presently.
So what changed? We did. Our town did and we did it progressively. We gained a couple of mini-malls with El Centro and Santa Fe Village. DeVargas Mall opened in the mid ’70s, and shortly afterward JC Penney’s and Montgomery Ward left the Plaza. Walgreens left, and Goodmans Men store and Pfluegers also moved to DeVargas Mall. With all of the movement, the Plaza merchants asked that portals be built to protect their customers from the weather elements and to help compete with the new malls.
Safeway announced the closing of its New Mexico stores and we lost our downtown grocery store. The former Loretto School building burned down, and up went a hotel that is one of the most photographed and recognized in the City. One gas station closed, and then three more followed and the hub had only one on Old Santa Fe Trail and Santa Fe Avenue.
As the City of Santa Fe expanded to the south with Las Acequias and Fairway Village subdivisions, the city gained a large mall with Villa Linda, and Sears left the Plaza and moved to the mall. Evangelo’s raised its prices and the clientele changed. Some of the now vacant large retail spaces had to reinvent themselves and they did. We had the Greer family renovating Plaza Galleria, followed by Gerald Peters revamping the Plaza Mercado.
More changes came as Woolworths announced the closing of its stores and again Gerald Peters was able to revamp the space, keeping one of Santa Fe’s treasures, the Frito Pie, and the wonderful personnel from the former Woolworths stayed on with the new Five and Dime.
During all of this, Santa Fe had mayors who helped bring in high-spending tourists. Mayor Sam Pick had an aggressive advertising campaign in Town and Country, Architectural Digest and similar magazines, and then we had a mayor who felt that was not beneficial to us and changed the advertising to Redbook, Good Housekeeping and similar magazines.
We lost our high-end stores and galleries since our new visitors’ spending also changed. We no longer had the people who could afford the finest art and jewelry by local artists, but instead wanted t-shirts, cheaply made Southwestern-style jewelry and art, much of which was imported goods.
In recent years, the Plaza has started to be a place to come for the locals, with the Santa Fe Bandstand series of concerts, the celebration of Hanukkah and the lighting of the holiday lights.
I foresee great things coming to our city and I foresee myself beginning to spend more time on the Plaza, as I did growing up here.
Victoria Murphy is a Santa Fe resident.