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FARMINGTON – The city's downtown retail district has seen a handful of new ventures open this year, but one Farmington couple and their neighbor are putting a new spin on local entrepreneurship.

Oscar and Lupe Rojas, and their neighbor and friend Alma Hernandez recently opened Sahemi Shoes and More, a store that offers women's dress shoes and boots, along with a mishmash of other items — jeans, guitars, flashlights, bras, Navajo blankets, cooking equipment, jewelry, toys and tools, to name a few.

This year, Oscar Rojas retired from 35 years of cooking at the San Juan Country Club. Lupe Rojas retired a few years ago after 21 years as a custodian for the Farmington Municipal School District.

"I was retired already, and we had some savings and (Oscar) was retiring," Lupe Rojas said. "Plus (Alma) had the idea, and we have the money. So we said, 'We can start.' And we decided to open the store."

Lupe Rojas said she met Hernandez after she quit smoking and began exercising every day, starting with walks around the neighborhood. She struck up a friendship with Hernandez, and soon they took Zumba classes together. Before long, Lupe Rojas said, the idea for opening a store was hatched. The store's name, Sahemi, is a mash-up of Hernandez's parents' names, she said.

"Talking one day, should we do a shoe store? And Oscar and Lupe said, 'Yes,' and now we are here," Hernandez recalled. She used to work as a maid at local hotels and wanted to strike out on her own in retail and be her own boss, she said.

The downtown store isn't the first venture for the Rojases. They are from Chihuahua, Mexico, and have lived in Farmington since 1979. Their three daughters are fully grown and work in the health care industry, he said.

Oscar Rojas, who confessed to a fondness for the allure inherent in any store that has "and more" in its name, opened O.R. Tools and More in Kirtland a year ago.

"I like the business," he said of his two stores.

Chris Hunter, who is the regional manager for WESST in Farmington, a statewide nonprofit organization that strives to support local businesses, said the trend of recent retirees going into business is real.

"We call them 'encore entrepreneurs,'" Hunter said. "It is a growing trend. People are retiring, but not retired. They still have things to offer to the community in terms of service. (The Rojases) sound typical. They are essentially 'recareering.' and encores are often a success."

Hunter said there are two main reasons why retirees like the Rojases are successful.

"They have a lot of real-life work experience," he said. "And they tend to have capital saved up. And the No. 1 reason a business can fail is the lack of the latter."

Hunter said his nonprofit organization sees more encore ventures like what the Rojases are doing each year. Next year, he said WESST will host an "awareness raising" event for entrepreneurs of all ages.

"I think with the continuing aging of the population, we may see more encore entrepreneurs," Hunter said. "With the layoffs we're seeing from the oil and gas industry, there may be more yet to come. Being an entrepreneur is an option to retiring."

The Rojases and Hernandez plan to stick around, they said, and are unworried by the empty storefronts visible through their store's front window. They are also relying on social media to help promote their business and feature new items on sale on their Facebook page.

Lupe Rojas she and her husband were enjoying life, thanks to a daily regimen of exercise and lots of laughter, but she said the same approach applies to running a business.

"We have to keep busy. We have to keep moving," Lupe Rojas said.

James Fenton is the business editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621 and jfenton@daily-times.com.

More info

What: Sahemi Shoes and More

Where: 208 W. Main St., Suite A, in Farmington

Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday

More info: Call 505-860-7433

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