The Frontier Mart has been sold to a Corrales couple who intend to keep the store going. The new owners are Gabriel and Elizabeth Holguin; the business was already in existence as “Corrales Market” when Jean Blackmon Waszak and partners took it over in 1976.
For decades, the enterprise, also known affectionately as “the little store” was the setting for a column she wrote for Corrales Comment, “Reflections from a Country Store.” She suspended the column last year after to her husband’s serious injury. John Waszak, a former professional football player, is recovering and undergoing physical therapy.
For years after she acquired the store, it was located in the building next door, now known as “The Bunkhouse.” Jean and John Waszak bought the adjacent property and built the new store in 1997.
They put the business and property on the real estate market last year, and turned away several potential buyers who they felt were “not the right fit.”
“Gabe has a passion for the store. He’s a lot younger, has a good attitude and is a hard-worker,” she said, in an April 6 interview with the Comment.
If anything, she said, she herself is working harder than ever. “I’m working night and day and haven’t had a day off in months. Every day, there’s a new crisis.”
The ordeal they are facing now is basically the same that everyone else must deal with: coping with the coronavirus pandemic. “You asked how Corrales and the Frontier Mart have changed over the years,” Waszak reply to a Comment inquiry. “I’d have to say that in 1976 the Frontier Mart started out as a convenience store. Convenience stores were up and coming in 1976. But over the years we tried to retain the convenience and add more groceries. Now we consider ourselves a little grocery store with a full line of basic groceries and produce.
“We’ve also evolved into a source for made-in-New-Mexico food products which has been great fun.
“As for Corrales, we’ve seen our village change in so many ways. One major change has been that Corraleños have become much more business-friendly. In the old days many Corraleños thought businesses were a threat to the rural ambience of the village. But nowadays villagers seem much more appreciative of our business community. That’s a really nice change.
“John and I have not reflected too much on what we will do when we retire from the store. We’d thought we might travel a bit. But of course, now that will have to wait until the virus threat has lessened. “We plan to work on our house and build a new bedroom. We look forward to having some down time —maybe we’ll sleep-in once in a while. We’ll enjoy having evenings when we don’t do the accounting or make grocery orders.
“I think I’d like to cook and read and write —not in that order. I expect at first there’ll be a big emptiness and we’ll have to remind ourselves that this is what we wanted. But we’ll get past it. “I’m determined that we won’t bother Gabriel unless he calls us. John and I will miss the daily contact with customers and our teammates at the store, but we won’t miss the responsibility. When it’s time to clean the cotton out of the compressors on the roof, or change the light bulbs in the ceiling, I’m going to love retirement!”
Right now, she said, “we’re just trying to keep toilet paper and flour and yeast on the shelves. And we’re trying to think how it’s even possible to organize a final inventory. The projects for today include scouting out more hand sanitizer and installing sneeze guards over the check stand. I can’t let myself dream of retirement just yet. Ask me in a month or two.”