By Erin Rose
— Photos by David Fischman & Paul Ortiz
— With little warning, one of Nob Hill’s most idiosyncratic shops is closing.
Revolver Vintage is loved for its striking second-hand clothing and display cases filled with baubles, oddities and games. On Tuesday, March 12, the owners abruptly announced its closing in an emotional Facebook post that declared:
” WE’VE BEEN TREATED BADLY … REVOLVER IS CLOSING … TEN YEARS OF BUILDING, OF BLOOD, SWEAT AND TEARS. WE WILL MISS ALL OF YOU … THIS IS BREAKING OUR HEARTS.”
A Part of Local History
When Revolver opened in Albuquerque in 2003, Nob Hill was on the rebound after years of economic stagnation. Many of the Route 66 motels along Central had closed, and nearby businesses suffered. With the help of a city redevelopment project, Nob Hill grew into a thriving area full of local businesses.
Das Anastasiou, owner, moved to New Mexico from California to set up the shop. “We helped rebuild this neighborhood,” he says.
Revolver has been a mainstay over the last 10 years. Many of the storefronts around it have changed hands one, two or even five times, but the vintage shop has remained.
The shop is well-loved. Yelp reviews call Revolver “a diamond” and “THE find for men and women’s vintage.” The wardrobe staff for “Vegas,” a show set in the ’60s starring Dennis Quaid, bought clothes for the pilot here, and “Breaking Bad” filmed a scene in the store.
A Portal to Another Lifestyle
I love the shop myself. I’ve been visiting Revolver for almost nine years. As a cash-strapped 18-year-old, I’d stop in and get a small tchotchke, awaiting the day when I could buy up racks of vintage dresses and hats and fill my house with ’50s barware and records.
With its midcentury furniture and artful displays, the store wasn’t just a shop but a portal into another lifestyle, one that I, raised on big-box stores, hadn’t seen in Albuquerque. Full of treasures found at estate sales and thrift shops, the owners clearly chose only things they appreciated or loved. Anastasiou was generous with his sources, too, suggesting I check out a flea mart on Lomas that I returned to many times , sometimes once a week. To me, Revolver was magical.
Now I go in to buy clothes, mostly hats. Often, without saying a word, Anastasiou discounts the price as he rings up my purchases—one way he helps out other working-class people.
Controversy Over the Sale
Anastaiou says the Discos, who own the property, came in a couple of weeks ago and told him they were selling. He was shocked but rallied to make an offer. They chose another buyer. “We offered them the same amount of money, and they didn’t even want to work with us.”
I talked to the property’s owner to learn more about what happened. Gary Disco is a trustee for Revolver’s building and its property manager. He also owns and works at Disco Display House. He and his brother made the decision to sell, he told me in an interview.
Disco was unwilling to discuss the terms of the sale. He says it was purely a business decision and that the other buyer better fit his requirements. Revolver can stay in the space until the deal closes, he adds, but may have to leave as soon as mid-April.
He says he’s had no trouble with Revolver as a tenant. But the Anastasious need to do what is in their best interests now, he adds, which is move on.
Anastasiou says he’s flabbergasted by the change. “We put our blood into this place. Ten years of our life. We had that relationship with them, and they don’t even give us a chance. It’s cold.” He says he’s not sure he wants to open another shop. “This was just such a blow.”
Ryan Holler owns Toad Road, the shop next to Revolver. He finds the deal alarming. “It’s scary when these guys are in the neighborhood and are doing this to another local business. “
Anastasiou likens it to the classic film It’s a Wonderful Life. “People are losing their life savings. They’re losing their dreams. The landlords don’t lose any money.”
The Small Business Squeeze
Nob Hill rents have been rising for years. With the arrival of chains like Staples and Urban Outfitters, rents increased even more. Many businesses along Central (The Bike Coop, Natural Sound, and Ecco Gelato, among others) were pushed out by what Steve Schroeder, owner of Nob Hill Music, refers to as a “rent tsunami.”
For property owners, it’s just business. For the tenants, this is their life. These small businesses toiled to build a thriving community. It was their hard work that raised property values in Nob Hill. It was their hard work that enabled their landlords to charge higher rents and enjoy bigger profits. It was their hard work that made it attractive to businesses with larger bank accounts, such as Urban Outfitters.
Aren’t these businesses owed some consideration after decades of work and thousands of dollars in rent? Greedy landlords are rending holes in Nob Hill. The storefront where the Bike Coop once was has been empty for months. At least three spaces in the Nob Hill Shopping Center sit vacant.
Chasing out these small businesses will eventually destroy the character that makes the area so appealing.
Anastasiou says the decline has already begun. “Corporations come in, and it becomes all Staples and big-box stores. The bookstores, the record stores, the regular people are being pushed out.”