Two plaza businesses will close their doors by year's end while another abruptly closed its doors in late June. Vertu Gallery and Sundance Gifts began sporting "closing" signs on their windows this spring, but neither plans to shut down immediately.
And the owners of both are looking forward to the next chapter in their lives.
Meanwhile, True Value Hardware closed "for relocation" on Friday, June 21. The owners and employees will not comment publicly on the closure which follows the "relocation" of Aaron's store earlier in the spring.
"It's been the trend," said Kirstin Keller, Middle Rio Grande Economic Development Association (MRGEDA) executive director. "I don't think it's quite the end of the world, yet," she added.
"I think you will begin to see growth," she said. "Many people are working together to bring positive results."
Addressing the broadband issue is key, she noted, and the city is working hard on that issue.
Meanwhile, the art emphasis on the plaza will change by next year. Since 2008, Miran Brown's Sundance Gifts has offered a large variety of local and imported gifts. From the distinctive pottery of Ken Merrick and Karlene Voepel, to fragrant lotions from lavender farms, to Guatemalan imports, the store carried a little something for every occasion and style.
Miran and husband Don Brown, who owns Socorro Plaza Realty, came to Socorro in 1984. They started the Socorro Shopper, a free publication aimed at promoting the entire town and its resources.
Later, Miran took over the struggling Sundance Gallery on California Street, reopening the shop on the plaza under the name of Sundance Gifts. She eventually expanded the shop from one store front to two, doubling the size and merchandise. Miran has seen economic good times and bad, but nowadays, she says, most people shop online. Besides, she says, she's ready to retire and looks forward to spending more time with hobbies including her garden.
When the space on the southeast corner of the plaza became vacant, Prescott and Georgette Grey moved Vertu Gallery from the Juan Jose Baca house into the multi-windowed showroom, becoming the anchor for art and the plaza for the next four years. The gallery itself, featuring Georgette's watercolors, has had several incarnations, stemming back decades to its first home in historic Tannery Market Place in Newburyport, Mass.
And while they will shutter the doors to Vertu by the end of the year, Georgette plans to keep right on painting.
"Vertu," says Grey, "means a love of, or taste for fine art."
That appreciation is obvious in Grey's works and in the art that is offered at the gallery, including works by local artists Skeeter Leard, Don Boyd, Sharon Fullingim, Michael Goettee and others.
Grey's watercolors reflect her enthusiasm for nature and culture. They offer a unique diary of her life: She has painted places of interest from Maine to Chimayo, New Mexico; from California to Massachusetts; from the Garden of the Gods in Colorado, to the Tobacco Museum in North Carolina.
Grey's ability with transparent watercolor has been honed by continual practice, painting and workshops. And while her formal education was in art, her first jobs were in typesetting.
"I loved working with print and type," she says, noting she had the first tele-computing typesetting service in New Mexico while living in Las Cruces. A few years later, living in California, a PBS program "The Magic of Watercolor" set her on her future path. "Acrylics never did anything for me," she said. "Oils are too messy, so watercolor was ready-made for me."
Grey’s nature-centric works reflect an inner emotional view she refers to as interpretive realism. And while many of her paintings reflect her love of the natural outdoors, she also has put her attention and talent to cultural aspects of life which are disappearing: A series on barns back east won acclaim. The need for improved fire equipment prompted her to paint a series of the antique fire engines. "How else would the world know about Pat and Gil's flivver," she remarks, explaining the postcard's origin.
Vertu's current epoch is limited as the owners look to freeing up some of their time and energies to do more of what they love: travel, garden, and good food. But Georgette will always be painting. In fact, she's already looking forward to joining other artists in a new venue; her work also is available online.
Meanwhile, to get some excellent art and unusually good prices, be sure to stop in to shop soon. Sales are going well, says Prescott, which is good for them but limiting for any shoppers. Summer hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.