On the Road

JCK editors are traveling throughout North America to interview independent jewelers in an occasional series titled “On the Road.” The articles will explore the differences and similarities jewelers face managing their businesses in specific regions of the country. Our first two stops are the New Mexico cities of Albuquerque and Santa Fe. There may be no place in the United States where two cities so close together are so different.

Albuquerque is a growing metropolitan area of more than 712,000 (nearly half a million in the city) that combines natural beauty with urban sprawl. The Rio Grande cuts through the center of the city along with two interstate highways. Its near-endless array of strip malls sit in the shadow of the Sandia Mountains. It is also a poor city, reflecting New Mexico’s dubious distinction as one of the poorest states in the union. But a major university, laboratories, computer chip manufacturers, and military bases provide economic opportunity. The people of Albuquerque prefer a casual lifestyle. Jewelers meet their needs by focusing on service and value. They distinguish themselves by the major product lines they carry.

Santa Fe, only 60 miles north, is believed to be the oldest inhabited area in North America, and its history and cultural heritage are on display in its architecture, its people, and its shops. The fewer than 70,000 people who live there (139,000 countywide) are proudly tricultural (Anglo, Hispanic, and Native American). It was built long before the rise of the automobile, and the best way to get around is still on foot. Art is big business in Santa Fe, so it’s no surprise that the jewelers embraced by residents and visitors are those who focus on design. The art lovers who come to the “City Different” appreciate individual expression, and these stores develop a loyal following.