Microwave owner Ray Chavez has skateboarding in his blood.
His grandparents opened the South Valley's Concrete Wave in 1988 (it's still there). Ray, whose feet were already glued to a deck, started working the counter when he was 9 or 10 year old. "Back then, there wasn't a lot of shops. There was the mall, and that stuff was overpriced," he says. "That's why this is the Microwave. It's the little one."
Chavez' three-year-old satellite store is, in fact, very small. But it's filled with all the right gear. "Even if we had the room, I wouldn't carry anyone besides the brands we do. They're good people with quality products. And quality products is probably the main thing in skateboarding—that's what we look for." Chavez’ is one of only a few stores in town to carry SBs—Nike's chunky, colorful, tricked-out skateboard shoe line that's sought after by "sneaker head" collectors and straight-up skaters alike ("pro" boat-style shoes run around $70, high tops jog up to $200). And since he was the first SB account in Albuquerque, he gets hooked up with a constantly changing selection of special and limited edition shoes.
Chavez also has hoodies, shirts, T-shirts ... and of course, skate decks ($55 pro models, $32 for the shop deck with Microwave art designed by Chavez and another artist), wheels, trucks and all the other accessories a concrete junkie needs. If you don't know what you're doing, Chavez can help you put together a complete skateboard for under $150. "I'm always super stoked to set someone up with his first board," he says. "All questions are welcome."
Open since May, Stílo isn't the sort of place you'd expect to find Downtown, much less off the lobby of the Hyatt hotel. This is a part of town as renowned for nightlife as it is for being a retail graveyard. "We're trying to get people to open up to the idea of shopping Downtown," says Stílo owner Stefanie Montaño. With her shop's clean and easy mix of design-savvy "lifestyle accessories"—everything from furniture upholstered in vintage fabrics to "neck ties that don't suck," throw pillows to watches—it's a good thing Stílo is breaking the neighborhood mold. Montaño is on a first-name basis with the people behind all the items she stocks. Still, "everything has that fresh, colorful, simple look," Montaño says. "We want to keep it kind of urban and modern."
Shopping at Stílo is a palate-cleanser—two white, warm room-boxes (one filled with masculine details, one for more feminine items) with displays grouped by color. Even better, Stílo’s pieces have a polished, high-end look, but most are priced $40 and below.
How fresh is your skin care? How green is your shampoo? Great Face & Body owners Keith and André West-Harrison whip up every batch of body and hair products onsite, all from ingredients that are organic, sustainable, local or wild-crafted. Their extensive line ($19 foot cremes to $95 wrinkle elixirs) is cruelty-free and packed into containers made from 100 percent recycled materials. The labels are even printed with soy ink on labels recycled from plastic grocery bags.
Eco-friendliness aside, "It's all about relaxation," says Keith. The products are used during deluxe body treatments in the store's "Zen Den." (To accommodate their many film industry clients, appointments are available 24 hours a day.) "No picking, no poking. We don't believe in pain during a facial. We let our products do the hard work."
This isn't exactly a spa. (Though the West-Harrisons have plenty of experience in that department; they owned a French Quarter hotel and spa until Hurricane Katrina washed them out.) "There will be no Enya," half-jokes Keith. Great Face & Body is an "eco-urban lifestyle market." It's a Downtown pick-up point for Los Poblanos Organics boxes, a gallery and a fair trade gift store. There are organic Shaman Chocolates, wallets made from seat belts reclaimed in New Delhi and Cambodian fish food containers reincarnated as colorful holiday wine totes.
In addition to much of the retail items coming from microfinanced cooperatives, 10 percent of all Great Face & Body's sales go to CARE, a global women's empowerment nonprofit. "We call it 'mashup retail'," says Keith. "You don't know what it's gonna be, but it's always fun stuff."
Friends and business owners Betty Wyatt and Noël Dalton just transformed a charming but woefully empty block of brick storefronts into a hub for urban style.
Wyatt runs Vicious Creature, a handmade apparel store with an emphasis on recycled and vintage pieces. She creates women's and children's shirts, dresses, sweatshirts and skirts ($15 to $60) that are collage-like, with a Punky Brewster flavor that's "bright and fun" while embracing a punk edge. Her store also carries three other local designers. Clothes, jewelry, bags, shoes—every piece is completely one-of-a-kind and affordably priced.
Next door, Dalton—an Urban Academy makeup instructor and resident Chanel artist at Dillard's—sees The Vanity as a "make-up co-op." The Vanity experience is more boutique than a salon, like hanging out in Marie Antoinette’s beauty parlor. In her one-room studio, Dalton and a changing lineup of artists offer full-service styling (around $40) and workshops (around $65), which include a take-home touchup kit of the colors used in class.
Visit the shops, capped by Cecilia's Café at Sixth Street and Silver, during their holiday open house on Saturday, Dec. 12, from 7 to 10 p.m.