New businesses reflect on 2016

Farmington Chamber of Commerce president Audra Winters says the local climate for new businesses, especially when it comes to fast-food or fast-casual restaurants, has been good.

Leigh Black Irvin
Farmington Daily Times


Greg Knuppel, left, works on a tattoo for Marilynn Betselie on Friday at Mr. Tank's Tattoos in downtown Farmington.


FARMINGTON — Despite the continued downturn in the local economy, 2016 saw increases in some types of business in the county, especially fast-food restaurant chains. The question arises, however, as to how some of the smaller, non-chain businesses have fared this past year.

The Daily Times caught up with several of these smaller business owners to get an update on how their operations have fared.

“It’s been going really good,” said Kody Jones, co-owner of The Caffeinated Ape, a mobile coffee trailer that set up shop in the parking lot of the Bethel Christian Reformed Church in Shiprock, near the intersection of Highways 491 and 64.

“We have all kinds of customers passing through, and even some from the Phoenix area who’ve heard about us,” said Jones.

Jones and his cousin, Roberto Lee, have been selling their on-site brewed coffee beverages from the trailer since late August of this year, and said customers are streamlining in because word is spreading that they have something locals can’t purchase elsewhere.

Since their opening, the business partners have added pastries and burritos to the menu, and Jones said plans for the upcoming year include adding even more food items, such sandwiches and more breakfast items.

“We have a few more ideas, and may also open up a second shop in Kirtland,” he said. “That’s still in the planning stages, maybe for next fall.”

Unlike many new business owners, Jones claims starting up the coffee shop was not difficult.

“I’m the type of person who likes to take on a challenge and I don’t give up. All of the paperwork (and) all the other stuff we had to do, it was fun,” he said.

Mr. Tank’s Tattoos 505 opened at 115 1/2 West Main Street in Farmington at the end of March, and the owner says business has been good ever since.

“Things always slow down around the holidays, but we’ve actually been doing really good,” said owner Josh Johnson, who owns a second store in Denver. “It’s been hectic going back and forth, but I’m blessed to be able to do both stores in this tough economy.”

Marilynn Betselie, left, gets a tattoo from Greg Knuppel on Friday at Mr. Tank's Tattoos in downtown Farmington.

Johnson gives much credit for the business’s success to the increase in popularity of tattoos and piercings nationwide, but also says those seeking tattoos in this area, as opposed to in Denver, hold their tattoo art to a higher standard.

“Out here people appreciate good art, and that’s why I like coming here,” he said.

Johnson almost gave up, he said, when he was in the process of getting permits and licenses to open up the shop.

“Everything’s different here (than in Denver) and at first I really didn’t want to open after seeing all the hoops I’d have to jump through. But my girlfriend told me to do it, and now I’m definitely really happy I did it,” he said.  

Johnson said he wants the business to become more involved in the community in the upcoming year.

“That’s one of the perks to being downtown, all of the activities bring people down to this area,” he said.

A completely different type of local business, the Hubble & Barr Galleries at 206 West Main Street that opened last September, is still in the “getting-established” stage and is seeking to integrate some new strategies to lure customers in.

“It’s been a little slow, but we have done a lot of advertisement to get the word out that we’re here,” said gallery co-owner, Steve Barr.

Barr said his partner Rod Hubble, a successful New Mexico artist, brought many of his previous clients with him to the new gallery, and that has helped with sales.

Barr describes himself as a “wood-guy,” and is enjoying selling and displaying his hand-crafted wood furniture and art pieces in the gallery. He said that although sales have been slow, he has enjoyed being able to co-manage his own gallery.

“I can display all my stuff the way I want in this big, open place – I don’t have to argue with an owner because he’s me,” said Barr.

Barr said he and Hubble are holding their own financially after this first year of business, but said they plan to spruce up the front of the store to make it more obvious they’re there. They are also trying to identify ways to let customers know the benefits to buying local, uniquely-made items instead of mass-produced products found at large department stores.

“We have to try to figure out how to get more local people aware of what we’re doing,” he said. “I want people to know that we also have smaller, more affordable items here – Rod has prints for sale, and I have smaller pieces, such as cutting boards, that start under $25. The malls are packed right now, but we want to inform people that we have a lot of beautiful, unique things downtown. It would be nice if we could coax people back, and let them know that unique is the way to go.”  

Audra Winters, president of the Farmington Chamber of Commerce, confirmed that the local climate for new businesses, especially when it comes to fast-food or fast-casual restaurants, has been very good.

“We’ve definitely seen an increase in these, and it seems like the ones who have local owners are doing particularly well,” she said. “Of course, anyone who is involved in the oil and gas industry is not doing as well.”

Winters said the real estate business also seems to be faring well.

“People are still selling their homes, but there isn’t as much construction – that’s a little down,” she said.

As was voiced by many of the newer business owners, Winters is optimistic that business will improve in the upcoming year.  

“We’re all hoping it will pick up a little bit,” she said.

Leigh Black Irvin is the business editor for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4621.