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Route 66 With Renee: Local Love in Albuquerque

After hitting the road Tuesday, our Great American Route 66 Road Trip team found a spot to rest up and get ready for another day of driving and visiting local businesses in New Mexico.

We enjoyed dinner at a local spot and then got to bed early, as we’d all need to be ready to hit the road around 7 a.m. again the next morning to head to our scheduled visits in Las Vegas, New Mexico, and then Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Day 3: Albuquerque

Wednesday morning,  I was really excited to get on the road, since our first visit of the day would be to BTU Do it Center in Las Vegas, New Mexico. We arrived to the store around 8 a.m. and met Wayne and Shelly Sonchar, owners of the business since the 1980s.

Wayne Sonchar, co-owner of BTU Do it Center, poses with Stihl equipment.

I had a little bit of time to chat with Wayne and Shelly, and then we interviewed them on camera to share their story and explain why it’s so important for consumers to shop locally at all types of businesses, including home improvement stores.

According to Wayne, the business is very involved in the community, giving back in as many ways as possible. He says that with the help of his employees, they have formed wonderful relationships with their customers.

“Our employees are the reason we’re able to best serve our customers,” Wayne says. “They’re our front line; they’re the people who represent BTU. Our employees are very important—they’re like family.”

Wayne added that the shop-local movement is very important to him, as it helps the Las Vegas community keep the money in the community rather than leaving it for big-box companies headquartered in other states. When asked about Independent We Stand, he says they’ve been a great group to back them up, especially with the support from their co-op, Do it Best Corp., and the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA).

“Independent We Stand is a great group; I think it’s a great movement. We’ve been part of Independent We Stand since it was introduced by Stihl,” Wayne says. “Then NRHA partnered with them and now it’s associated with Do it Best Corp.—these are great partnerships. They build strong community awareness, and hopefully we can continue to help educate the public about the importance of shopping locally and supporting their independent businesses.”

After shooting the video, we took some photos outside of the building, which has clear, bright signage and went through a remodel just a few years back. Then it was back on the road to Albuquerque for the rest of our stops.

Once we got to town, we first visited with Carolyn Chavez of the Nob Hill Main Street organization. Nob Hill is a unique neighborhood community within Albuquerque that has many local businesses, including restaurants, hotels, breweries, boutiques and more. She shared her thoughts on what made Nob Hill such a wonderful community to be a part of and even recommended we visit with one of its local business owners, Rufus Cohen of Izzy Martin Menswear, just down the road.

Renee Changnon, editor, enjoyed a corned beef sandwich in honor of St. Patty's Day.
Renee Changnon, editor, enjoyed a corned beef sandwich in honor of St. Patty’s Day.

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day a day early, we headed to O’Neil’s Pub in the Nob Hill area. We enjoyed some Irish grub and got geared up for our afternoon visits. Our first stop of the afternoon was at Raks Building Supply, another home improvement business I was excited to visit.

We met co-owner Kenneth Trujillo at one of his five locations. He shared his thoughts on the shop-local movement and how his business gives back to the community, from employing 150 people to hosting events that support local charities.

Raks Building Supply is a lumber and building supply business that works closely with local contractors and DIYers. Since opening the doors of the first location in 1986, they have formed close relationships and fostered loyal customers that come back to their store, rather than shopping at a big box.

Renee Changnon, editor, enjoyed catching up with the Raks Building Supply team.

To end our business visits for day, we stopped by the Melloy Dodge dealership and Alberto’s Tire Pros. Both businesses also boast strong relationships with their customers, who continue to return and support local Albuquerque businesses rather than big box or chain businesses.

After finishing all of our interviews for the day, we returned to the Nob Hill area to check in to the Hiway House Motel, an establishment that has been located along Route 66 for many years. We got our room keys, unloaded our luggage and walked down the street to find dinner.

We ate at Bistronomy B2B, a local brewery and restaurant that featured burgers, vegetarian fare and delicious lightly breaded pickles. We enjoyed a flight of their local beers before turning in for the night and gearing up for day four on the road. The following day would entail a nearly five-hour drive to Flagstaff, Arizona. Our first stop will be at another home improvement business, so I’m excited to see what that operation is known for and learn how they spread the word among consumers to shop local.

Check in tomorrow to read all about my day in Flagstaff and Sedona, Arizona, and continue to follow the trip on Hardware Retailing’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as NRHA’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

About Renee Changnon

Renee Changnon
Renee Changnon is the retail outreach coordinator for NRHA. She meets with retailers in their stores and at industry events and introduces them to the services NRHA provides. Renee previously worked as a member of the NRHA communications team. She earned a degree in visual journalism from Illinois State University, where she served as the features editor for the school newspaper. After college, she implemented marketing and promotions initiatives at Jimmy John’s franchise locations across the country. She enjoys exploring books with her book club, Netflix marathons and hosting goat yoga at her apartment complex. Renee Changnon 317-275-9442 rchangnon@nrha.org

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