This story appeared in a spring 2011 issue.
It’s no secret that present-day Marcy Street evolved from residential origins. Lined with majestic trees, wide sidewalks and gracious homes with welcoming front porches, it’s clearly a neighborhood. A block from the Plaza, Marcy Street is anchored on the east by a park celebrating painter Tommy Macione, local everyman of creativity, and on the west by the newly renovated convention center. Among shops, galleries, restaurants and a view of the Cross of the Martyrs are such staples as the public library, two local newspaper offices, City Hall, banks and law offices. It’s a vital, bustling neighborhood with lively foot traffic. Case in point: One summer’s afternoon a line of young girls in Girls Inc. t-shirts headed back to day camp passing a group of teenagers from Minnesota, exuberant in their balloon hats from the Plaza.
Il Piatto’s owner/chef, Matt Yohalem, calls Marcy Street “a taste of SoHo in the heart of Santa Fe.” Business over the weekends is usually brisk, he says; Mondays bring back to work City Hall workers and other locals, “who fan out to patronize all the area businesses right outside their offices.” Merchants, chefs and shopkeepers patronize and support each other. And, as a result, says Matt, “we’ve built a local, sustainable micro-economy. It works!”
101 West Marcy Street 505.988.1555, designwarehousesantafe.com
The lure to let your inner child out to play in Design Warehouse is irresistible. “How do you create joy in a house?” asks owner Larry Keller. The answers are everywhere you look in this playhouse of a store: suave, sophisticated furniture; ingenious kitchenware items; whimsically clever lamps. There’s nowhere else like it.
Larry opened 30 years ago this November. “I want to show people the beauty in the utilitarian. And really,” he confides, “good retail is a part of the entertainment industry.” He gestures to the current window installation: the Puppy, à la Jeff Koons, constructed from 996 red balls by local artist Brian Chen (you may remember his December window display Gaga for the Holiday!, the iconic Lady made of straws).
“So few cities have vital downtowns any more.” Enthusing about its explosion of new class restaurants, galleries and shops, Larry’s excited about Marcy Street’s transformation. “We think we’re Santa Fe’s mecca!”
72 W. Marcy Street 505.982.3433, labocasf.com
Swing open the Dutch door beside the window box of red, white and green flowers, and you’ve entered chef/owner James Caruso’s universally acclaimed domain. La Boca, featuring tapas and other Spanish dishes, has won fans as prestigious as The New York Times, whose reviewer gave it four out of four stars, saying, “You’ll find yourself sharing tips on what to order—and even forkfuls of delicious eats—with strangers!”
The waiter whistles cheerfully along with the music, allowing diners to linger lovingly over late lunch, commenting to each other, savoring. With regular menu items like canelones with lump crab, scallops and manchego cream; specials like smoked salmon with asparagus and Spanish goat cheese over mixed greens; and a daily chef’s tasting (“tapas of the moment”), both locals and tourists keep coming back for more.
Toyopolis [is now closed]
66 West Marcy Street 505.988.8994
Toyopolis is its own magical kingdom. “We’re a little oasis where kids can have fun, shop or just explore,” says owner Jennifer Forman. The relatively small space is a riot of fun and houses the full gamut of diversions, from Tinkertoy sets, Disgusting Science kits and everything Playmobil to My First Dollhouse, jacks and stuffed animal puppets galore.
Open for more than ten years now, Toyopolis attracts repeat customers—kids and especially parents—along with the children of Indian, Spanish and Folk Art Market artisans who come in once a year while their parents are down on the Plaza managing the family booth. “Tourists are welcome and encouraged, too,” Jennifer says, “but we haven’t forgotten who pays the bills come January and February.” She’s always liked Marcy Street. “I get the feeling that all the stores here are run by mom-and-pops offering a quality shopping or special dining experience.”
And that description certainly fits this toy store extraordinaire, as well.
Back at the Ranch
209 East Marcy Street 505.982.8110, BackattheRanch.com
Back at the Ranch houses roomful after roomful of the most unique cowboy boots you’ve ever seen, all handmade. And they’ll custom make anything. “It’s fun,” says manager Susan LaPointe. “We never have to say no; we say sure! We made this pair for a woman who grew up in New Mexico and wanted designs from vintage postcards. One woman brought in a picture of herself in 1965, wearing overalls and standing with her pet goat. We copied it, complete with real denim for her and pony-hair fur for Gertie!”
They have customers from all over. “And our local clientele is great, very loyal.” They also love Marcy Street. “It’s a historic neighborhood that still has charm.” And it’s a friendly place, too. “We’re all outside watering our front gardens, saying hi to each other.”
105 East Marcy Street 505.424.1311, izmisantafe.com
“We’re the baby here,” says Brent Jung, chef/owner of this Asian cuisine restaurant. Izmi was previously located on St. Michael’s, and Brent worried that they’d lose their local clientele, but his following followed him to Marcy Street. “James [Caruso of La Boca] has been great with any questions I have—I feel like part of the community here. I’m even planning to participate in the wine and chile tasting contest this year!”
The new location, serving lunch and dinner accompanied by artisan Japanese sake, is sleek and classy, with elegant black wood tables, hardwood floors, high ceilings and windows facing the library grounds. Izmi is Japanese for “spring water.” Brent wanted a name connoting purity and cleanliness, as befits sushi, “and because a dragon lives in water,” he adds, “and I’m born in the Year of the Dragon.” With greater exposure now, “this is a lot more fun,” he says. “We have all kinds of different clientele here.”
Full Bloom Boutique
70 West Marcy Street 505.988.9648, fullbloomboutique.com
If you’ve ever fantasized about wandering through a wealthy woman’s ginormous walk-in closet, neatly crammed with the most alive and brilliantly sherbet-colored floaty dresses, slim shifts, lacy skirts, scarves, lots of cottons, silks and crisp white linens plus the most flirtatious flamenco dresses and parrot-colored Polynesian dresses, this is the place for you! And it’s all affordable!
Of course, the collection shifts with the seasons, but right now, what a summertime-and-the-livin’-is-easy bonanza! The small shop is packed with shoppers sharing the excitement of discovery. A group of Texas ladies, trying on hats in the bureau mirror, coos and sighs as father and son beam at the son’s young wife trying on an embroidered gypsy dress. When she takes it to the counter, the ladies break out in a cheer.
Shauna Powell opened her boutique a year and a half ago, and it’s truly in full bloom. Don’t miss the fun!
Verve Gallery of Photography
219 East Marcy Street 505.982.5009, vervegallery.com
Galleries, like people, have distinct personalities. Some are showy and flamboyant, overpowering the very work they claim to represent; others try to please too many people at once, never quite finding their niche. The owners of Verve Gallery choose quality photographers, national and international, whose work is guided by the heart, and then they provide a quietly elegant container for it. As a result, the photographs are allowed to breathe, and we, undistracted, can feel the full effect of their magic.
One recent show featured a collection of exquisitely moving black-and-white photographs by a renowned Bulgarian photographer documenting the various ways his people were affected by the fall of communism. Each photograph, catching moments of unstaged illumination, is a stunning revelation of the soul’s yearning for freedom.
Verve’s owners love the Marcy Street neighborhood. Partner Wilson Scanlan welcomes locals to come by. It’s the gallery with a verve-y squiggle door handle.
95 West Marcy Street 505.984.1091, ilpiattosantafe.com
Once upon a time (about 17 years ago), when Matt Yohalem was the chef for La Traviata, he sat on the patio one night after work drinking a beer. “The streets were bustling, alive, the restaurant was still full and the smell of Italian food filled the air. I felt like I was in SoHo and I told myself that one day, this place would be mine. And, several years later, it was.”
Ah, Il Piatto. Wine tasting. Crisp linen tablecloths. Pumpkin ravioli with brown sage butter and pine nuts. Parmigiano potato gnocchi with arugula walnut pesto, ricotta, gremolata and fresh tomatoes. Italian conversation on your left.
Recently, Matt recounts, a film crew closed the block for the shooting of Odd Thomas. “People came by to watch. I believe several got to participate. Local technicians were part of the crew, and they all ate in my restaurant. A lot of fun was had by all.”
Laura Sheppherd Salon de Couture
65 West Marcy Street 505.986.1444 www.laurasheppherd.com
Laura Sheppherd designed and made her first gown at age 14. A graduate of New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, she opened her Salon de Couture almost 10 years ago, creating designs inspired by the world’s diverse natural elegance “so that women of all sizes and shapes could literally ‘walk in beauty.’”
Her designs are sumptuous. When she can’t find the perfect fabric, she makes it herself. Borrowing liberally from classic pieces of earlier centuries as well as the ‘20s, ‘30s and ‘40s, her clothing spans the spectrum from casual to cocktail to soiree. And Laura will custom design the bridal dress of your dreams.
Ecco Espresso and Gelato
106 East Marcy Street 505.986.9778, eccogelato.com
At Ecco, you can sit outside on the sidewalk, people-watching, or inside at one of the small round soda shop tables to enjoy a sexy hot-pink dish of gelato with tiny matching spoon. Owner Matt Durkovich, who apprenticed himself to Italian experts, makes a fresh batch every morning, using milk from local natural dairy Rasband. Ecco’s sign says: “We do not use: powders, corn syrup, stabilizers, emulsifiers, preservatives, dry mixes or other such fake junk!” And the flavors! Chocolate hazelnut! Pistachio! Caramel rum raisin, a sort of Italian chocolate chip, and too many more to count, plus every fruit you’ve ever loved!
Ecco also sells coffee drinks galore, tea, chai, root beer, milkshakes, floats and what salesperson Silvianne describes as “one of the best cups of coffee in town.” And they’re open late—till 10:00 Fridays and Saturdays, 9:30 the rest of the week—making Ecco the perfect hanging place for summer evenings.