Plant nursery, fair market the first phase of the old school rehabilitation

(Photo courtesy of Melanie Zipin)
Rafael Zipin and Jeff LeBlanc install shade for the plants at Whiskey Creek Zócalo, which is now open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

There has been progressively more action in the large-windowed building on the east side of US 180 in Arenas Valley since its current owners, Melanie Zipin and Jeff LeBlanc, purchased the property in 2015. The building, which would a former school originally located in Santa Rita or Hurley, has lived many lives, with its new incarnation born this week.
While Zipin and LeBlanc, along with Zipin’s son Rafael, who returned from Los Angeles to Grant County during the pandemic, have an even more substantial view of the property, dubbed Whiskey Creek Zócalo, the first phase – a nursery and a market – open Thursday.
“When we bought this building,” Mélanie said, “we had this vision: we really wanted to combine all of our passions. The three of us are artists and musicians with decades of experience in the service industry. Combining our love of all of these things, along with our passion for plants and natural building, is what motivated us to create a space we want to exist in our community.
The trio aims to create “a multi-faceted indoor/outdoor venue and interactive events space featuring concerts and artistic performances, workshops, accommodation, gardens and a market,” Melanie wrote in an announcement for the soft opening on Thursday.
“The three of us are a really great team that you just don’t find, especially as a family,” Rafael told the Daily Press. “The fact that we all have similar interests but come from different backgrounds, even though they’re all related – we come from different musical paths and different artistic paths, and have different service industries [experience], but we’ve all done it all. So when you put it all together, it’s a well-balanced, cool vision that’s truly unique.
Through the property’s turquoise gates, which sit between 20ft and 40ft long storage containers, is the first phase – the plant nursery and outdoor market. Delicate pink globe mauve and honeysuckle mingle in the exterior art. A vintage Shasta caravan sits next to them to serve as an office for the nursery.
Beyond the plants, which are mostly native, Melanie said, and are all varieties meant to thrive in this desert region, is a one-of-a-kind planter made from an old mining truck tire. which had been left on the property by previous owners.
Melanie and LeBlanc plastered the tire and adorned it with handmade tiles by Silver City artist Michele Parlee. A simple footpath, built by LeBlanc, has the beginning of a hand-laid spiral.
The attention to detail and intention infused into the space comes as no surprise, especially when you hear Melanie and Rafael riff on the future they envision for their family project.
While their and LeBlanc’s personal passions are evident, Melanie also described how the dream of Whiskey Creek Zócalo is reminiscent of the neighborhood grocery stores she went to as a child, and how she hopes the space her family is in the process of creating will provide a favorite place. place not only for its neighbors in Arenas Valley, but also for the larger community of Grant County and beyond.
“We want to be a stopover for people to come,” she said. “[It’s] so important to our rural neighborhoods, like Hurley and Bayard, Arenas Valley and Santa Clara in Mimbres, to be part of Silver City, but often neighborhoods are forgotten. We’ve lost so much neighborhood [spots]and I think that’s really sad.
“We love this community,” added Melanie. “I really like our area and we think it’s a really cool place because it’s between the mining district and Silver City.”
Lee Gruber and Bridgette Johns of Southwest New Mexico ACT agree.
Whiskey Creek Zócalo is “a perfect midpoint,” Gruber said.
It is one of five historic buildings that swnmACT chose for its Five Points initiative, a project to foster economic development across the county by creating a network of unique spaces that serve the community and additionally attract tourism. , illuminating future possibilities.
“I know part of our mission at Five Points is to be a bridge between the mining district and Silver City – to bring our communities together,” Melanie said.
“When Melanie and Jeff took [the property] plus – if you know them, then you know they are two of the hardest working people I have ever met – their vision for the Zócalo was to make it a place that would bring people, not just tourists, but our people, to a gathering place with food, with drinks, with music,” Gruber said. “Their vision is magnificent. The vision is exactly what was hoped for – to make it a place where all of our Grant County communities can come together and have fun.
“I was there the other day and they had brought all their nursery plants,” she continued. “And of course when they think, they think in terms of native plants, pollinators, things that are supposed to be in the desert environment. That’s how they both are, always thinking about what has meaning and what can work for our community. We are all so excited for this to happen.
“We want to offer more native and drought/cold tolerant plants, and eventually hope to involve more local growers,” Melanie said. “It is important for us to create a sustainable and interactive environment.
The market now features locally grown plants from Honey Hawk Farms in the Mimbres, soil and other products from Deming’s Terra Biotics, and a variety of other plants from the Mountain States Nursery in Glendale, Arizona.
While the nursery is now open regularly Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., LeBlanc and the Zipins will gradually flesh out what’s available to the public.
An indoor retail space, which will include “a neighborhood grocery store, vintage and rotating local art” is in the works, Melanie said, and the family plans to continue working to realize their entire vision of roadside property.
“Music and event space will follow, as soon as we can,” she said.
Both Melanie and Rafael noted that not only was it meaningful to co-create Whiskey Creek Zócalo, but that the help and interest in the project from friends and businesses in the area added levels of meaning. and future potential.
“I think the moments and the events and the things that we’re going to be able to have here are going to be pretty incredible and special for a lot of other people too,” Rafael said. “I think a lot of other people are going to have their favorite moments here.”
Hannah Dumas can be contacted at [email protected]

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