The Story Behind Today’s Indigo Crow Cafe

Submitted by The Corrales Historical Society

Did you know—the Indigo Crow Cafe was once the grocery store and gas station shown in this photo? This photograph was taken in the early 1940s; since that time the building’s history mirrors Corrales history.  

The store was probably built in the 1920s by Alejandro Gonzales Sr., perhaps to market some of the produce grown on his large farm that stretched from the river to the sand hills on both sides of what today is Ella Drive. Gonzales died in 1941, and in the 1940s the store was converted into a house for Alejandro’s granddaughter Jeanne and her husband. Her grandfather Alejandro’s house, built in the 1920s, stood to the south—it now proudly displays a blue CHS historic building plaque.

Corrales attracted newcomers after World War II, especially artists drawn by its pastoral beauty, isolation, and inexpensive property. By the 1950s the northern section of the old grocery held the Corrales Art Gallery, run by Lavonne Minge, a sister of Alan Minge (who in 1952 bought the old adobe he eventually transformed into Casa San Ysidro).  In 1962 the Corrales Art Association (founded in 1957) established their gallery in the old grocery building after leaving their first home in what is now Casa Perea and a brief stay in the Octaviano Lopez building (now El Portal). By the mid-1960s a local newspaper had christened Corrales “Santa Fe South” for its many artists.

But the wheel of time turned again and by 1968 the Corrales Art Association had left the building and it became home to the Double Mporium, a supplier of historic and cultural decorative items—most likely Indian crafts. The owner of the building at this time, John Cheney, continued this use under his company, the Tejas Trading Company. This use lasted about a decade. 

A local man, Juan Lopez, leased the building from Cheney in the early 1980s to house his restaurant El Comedor, which previously had occupied other buildings in  “downtown” Corrales. Lopez changed the restaurant name to The Desert Rose. He remembered that he and his partner “did everything” from cooking to serving to cleaning. They remodeled the trading company’s safe into their walk-in cooler and built a bar in the south end. Lopez eventually got out of the restaurant business and became a well-known maker of silver filagree jewelry. 

The building still houses a restaurant. Who knows what the future holds for the old grocery store?

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