One small-town New Mexico business is rising from the ashes of adversity by combining several local southwest businesses in one store.

The Jerky Store closed in December after its supplier, Sunset Foods Jerky Processing Plant, burned down. Beatrice Aragon, Jerky Store owner said closing the Bosque Farms store cost her about $40,000 a month.

“I closed my doors after the fire, not knowing if I was going to get enough business in here to keep my employees working,” Aragon said.

Things looked bleak for the small business, until Betty Jean Villa came up with an idea that would change everything, Aragon said.

By Aaron Sweet
Beatrice Aragon, owner of The Jerky Store in Bosque Farms, surveys the new addition to her business on Saturday. The store’s distributor, Sunset Foods has been closed since December because of a fire.
By Aaron Sweet
Sunset Foods still shows signs of fire damage, the owner is planning to use the unaffected wing of the building to begin manufacturing the much missed beef jerky by late June.

While Aragon could not carry her jerky with the processing plant out of commission until June, she could carry other products from local businesses.

Villa, who owns Manny’s Bakery in Los Lunas, said she created special red chile and green chile flavored donuts to drum up business for Aragon.

“As far as being a business owner, I feel for them because I understand. That’s our livelihood,” Villa said. “That’s how we keep going. We need to help each other out.”

The Jerky Store now bases a lot of its success on buying products from other local businesses, she said.

The store’s shelves are filled with popcorn from the Popcorn Cannery in Albuquerque, jerky from Sunset Foods in Tomé and pistachios from Heart of the Desert in Alamogordo, she said.

“I have, under one roof, several small businesses that I represent,” Aragon said.

Rhonda Buffet, assistant manager at The Popcorn Cannery, said local New Mexico businesses could not continue if they did not support each other.

“I think it’s becoming more and more common that local businesses are combining their products,” Buffet said. “I think for local businesses in the snack food industry, they are at a high now.”

The Popcorn Cannery had a dip in business in the early 2000s and would have not survived without local support, she said.

“Local businesses that are continuing their weekly purchases, especially during slow times, make it possible for us to sustain,” Buffet said.

Julie Roberts, one of the remaining employees at The Jerky Store and an accountant at the UNM Valencia campus, said the store gets many disappointed regulars because of the lack of their main product.

“We have repeat customers who want to come back. Wherever I go, I get people who ask me ‘when are you going to open up?’” Roberts said.

Many people are disappointed that the business closed in the first place, she said. However, they are staying hopeful for a quick re-launch.

“I am so happy that we are able to at least open back up, to get some of the people back here and let them know that we’re coming back,” Roberts said.“She’s offering alternatives, at least to get the people back in here,” Roberts said.

The employees of the Jerky Store were the ones hit hardest from the business’ close, Aragon said. Of the five full time employees the store employed, only three remain, but at part time.

“That’s who I felt for the most, was my employees, because they had to file for unemployment or go off to find other jobs,” Aragon said. “It took some of my old employees the full four months I was closed to find work.”

Before the fire, The Jerky Store was running efficiently with plans for an expansion on the back burner, but instead, she’s used that space to open a small coffee shop that also sells hot dogs, she said.

“I could’ve stayed closed, but I wanted to put myself back to work, my employees back to work and let the community know that I am not shut down,” Aragon said.

Henry Chavez, who has been a customer of The Jerky Store since he was a kid, said the store holds good memories for him, when he and his parents would stop there as a special treat before hunting or fishing trips.

“I was really looking forward to getting some jerky, but when I got into the store I was disappointed to hear they were out,” he said. “This is a Tomé-Bosque Farms thing. Other places sell jerky, but this one has the better jerky,” Chavez said.