An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989

Chile Hill Chiles

Store owner Ann Rustebakke takes a look at Chile Hill’s fall display of hot red chile ristras.

Chile Hill, Old Building

Chile Hill Emporium began its business in 1975 as Southwestern Emporium on Highway 44, in Bernalillo, at the location now occupied by Bernalillo Tire Company.

Rising from the ashes

A history of Chile Hill Emporium in Bernalillo

While the newspaper and the sign near the entrance said “Jackalope,” what burned to the ground on May 26, 2006, on the north side of State Road 550, in Bernalillo, was Chile Hill Emporium.

First, some history. When Chile Hill took up residence west of the river in 1985, it had already been in Bernalillo for ten years on leased land on the east side of the river—where Bernalillo Tire Company now stands, and across from KFC. It was called “Southwest Emporium (You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!).”

When Highway 44—now US 550—and the bridge over the Rio Grande were widened, land was purchased on the other side of the bridge, and on the opposite side of the road, directly in front of Coronado State Park. When the business moved, it became Chile Hill Emporium.

When this happened, in early 1986, the landscape west of the river was very empty. The intersection where the Federal Credit Union now stands was occupied by the All Tribes Mission School, with school buildings and residences for staff and families. The land where the Coronado Grill now stands was occupied by cows, which occasionally escaped and came across the highway to eat the plantings at Chile Hill. A very large bull once stopped traffic and had to be removed by the sheriff’s deputies (among them our present sheriff, John Paul Trujillo).

The traffic at this location was not heavy; the resident overseers at Chile Hill used to remark how quiet it was. There were other residents and homeowners to the west and south—some are still there—both along Sheriff’s Posse Road and on land to the west that had been designated as homestead lands. Artist Ed Delavy lived to the north, toward the Coronado Monument headquarters. After his death, his home was willed to the Sandoval County Historical Society, which now occupies it.

Chile Hill’s move to the new location coincided with its name change. It took just two months to drill a well, have telephone and electric services put in, and the new building built.

The business sold locally grown produce (there was no growers market) and natural food products: ice cream treats, drinks, vegetarian main dishes, and cinnamon rolls from Albuquerque’s Frontier Restaurant. Of course, there was New Mexico corn and chile products. Green chile was roasted to order, and red chile was sold either fresh or as ristras. Red ground chile was packaged on site.

Other Chile Hill specialties were Southwestern books, cards, locally produced Indian pottery and jewelry, drums, rattles, flutes, beadwork, baby moccasins, and, of course, harvest items like blue corn ristras, parched corn, melons, pumpkins, and Pueblo oven bread, pies, and cookies.

The books (up to a total of some two hundred titles) all contained Southwestern subject matter or were the work of local authors, or both—many from small presses that were difficult to find among standard bookstore offerings.

The work of local artists could also be found at Chile Hill. Jake Lovato, who created the original window grills for the store, also produced smaller pieces. Susan Junge’s large framed silk screen prints of local views and Geraldine Brussel’s Many Mesas, One Crow were favorites.

In the early 1990s, an addition was built on the west side of the store to house the Bosque Health Clinic, where Jack Dembs and Christina Wright served the public with acupuncture and massage therapy, respectively.

The building that housed Chile Hill and the land around it was leased to Jackalope in 1995. Jackalope had previously leased, and later purchased, land near the river next to Chile Hill. Jackalope occupied the major portion of the Chile Hill and clinic buildings for several years before constructing and occupying the large metal building on the adjacent property in 1996.

Other major changes in the neighborhood were the expansion of Bernalillo’s town limits to include property west of the river. More recently the town also took over management of the Coronado Park and Campground. The state of New Mexico still manages Coronado Monument. Santa Ana Pueblo began the process that resulted first in the creation of the Prairie Star Restaurant, then the development of Tamaya Resort, golf courses, casino, and soccer complex.

Next, the subdivisions began growing up in Bernalillo and Rio Rancho. Additional businesses have come into being (along with much traffic!) where All Tribes School stood, and where there was marginal pasture for cattle. This all happened in a twenty-year period, usually considered one generation’s time.

Chile Hill has not disappeared. It is, however, temporarily eclipsed because of the fire. “Should auld acquaintance be forgot,” Chile Hill will be rebuilt. It will probably not look exactly the same, but it will continue to specialize in New Mexico products. All of our existing chile supply was destroyed by the fire, and the choice has been made not to substitute chile from a different source—we have been doing business with the same supplier for twenty years.

The new chile crop will not be available until November at the earliest, and we hope by then to have a building to sell it from. We hope our customers will bear with us while we are busy rising from the ashes during the next few months.

Last but not least, a big thank-you to the firefighters from the surrounding departments, especially Bernalillo and Placitas, who helped.

We are available by telephone at our usual number, 867-3294, if you have questions.

Local businesses support 505 as New Mexico revisits the need for a second area code

The board of directors of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce has issued strong support for the retention of the 505 area code in the five-county area comprised of Bernalillo, Sandoval, Santa Fe, Torrance, and Valencia.

The organization said that to partition the state by area code designation into two geographic areas would be the most desirable outcome for the businesses and residents of the Greater Albuquerque area and for the state as a whole, considering that approximately 47 percent of the state’s population resides in this comparatively small area, according to year 2000 population estimates provided by UNM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

“The overlay proposal just strikes us as an unnecessary inconvenience for all New Mexicans,” said Terri L. Cole, chamber president and CEO. “With that system in place, a call across the street or next door may be to a different area code. To split it geographically, with the five-county area keeping 505, we believe, would provide the most convenience for the greatest number of our state’s citizens,” she said. “We will urge the commission to act quickly on this issue so that there is more transition time,” added Cole.

Rick Alvidrez, vice chair of the chamber’s Business Advocacy and Government Relations Division added, “In addition to being an inconvenience to New Mexicans, the overlay would have tremendous negative ramifications to large-scale users in the area, such as the University of New Mexico, Sandia National Laboratory, Albuquerque Public Schools, and Kirtland Air Force Base, among others, that have thousands of phone lines already in existence with the 505 area code.”

“We will lend tremendous support to keeping 505 in the five-county area,” he said.
The chamber will testify at the Public Regulation Commission hearing in Albuquerque scheduled for July 28. More information about the chamber is accessible on-line at

Las Huertas Flood

An intrepid motorist braves the quickly patched crossing of Las Huertas Creek late on July 5, the second day of heavy rain and runoff. Flooding the previous night washed out the crossing, isolating nearby neighborhoods.

Cost of flooding mounts as Las Huertas Creek overflows

County commission, Rio Rancho council pass disaster declarations

Welcome rains soaking Sandoval County early in July came at a price, an estimated $1 million for damage to roads and other public property.

And that was before the deluge of July 22 turned Las Huertas Creek into a raging torrent, washing out Camino de las Huertas, again. County Public Works Department crews were out early the next morning, Sunday, to fill in a breach estimated to be thirty feet wide and ten feet deep.

Officially Placitas received 0.79 inches or rain plus a white coating of hail, with the greater amounts on the Las Huertas headwaters in the Sandia Mountains.

Work bogged down when a dump truck so new it still bore a paper sticker backed too close to the end of the pavement and nearly overturned as the roadbed collapsed. The truck eventually was freed by a front-end loader lifting from the back and another pulling on a chain from the front.

The washout scoured away the patch job done after a July 4 storm that damaged two of the five-foot culverts so badly they were removed. One witness to the second washout described a violent river lifting the upstream ends of two of the surviving culverts, pushing them aside and pouring over the road.

The patch had held during a July 5 storm, when runoff also threatened to top the road. Camino de las Huertas remained open, even if crossing the creek at the time was not for the faint of heart as runoff came close to topping the road again.

Camino de la Rosa Castilla, the back door for residents north of the washout, remained open, unlike after the July 4 storm, which washed out culverts there, too. The recent storm also closed NM 313 between Bernalillo and the entrance to Sandia Pueblo for much of the following day and flooded parts of Corrales and Rio Rancho.

Overall, the flooding earlier in July damaged twenty-six public roads in the unincorporated areas of the county, according to Public Works director Phil Rios. Particularly affected were La Madera, on the east slope of the Sandia Mountains; the Jemez area; and Guadalupe, in the western part of the county, where a Bureau of Land Management bridge was swept away, he said.

The county was still filling and patching roads late in the month and had yet to get to some washouts where residents had alternate access to their homes, he said. A complete report of additional damage from the July 22 storm was not immediately available.

Placitas logged eleven consecutive days of measurable rain, starting on July 1, according to the National Weather Service data. Twenty-four-hour totals recorded in the evenings ranged from 0.01 inches to highs of 0.99, 0.80 and 0.84 inches on July 5, 6, and 8 respectively.

NWS data for Placitas on July 4 is missing, although one Albuquerque TV station covering the Las Huertas washout showed a nearby rain gauge holding four inches of water. The station didn't provide details.

A weather observer quoted in the NWS data also reported Las Huertas Creek running full on June 26, when 1.11 inches of rain came down, and again on June 27, with a reported 0.46 inches.

“Las Huertas Creek topped its banks,” an NWS spotter reported.

Runoff early in July also entered Bernalillo from arroyos running west under Interstate 25 and ravaged a hilly Rio Rancho neighborhood, where unpaved Rio Oso Street disappeared beneath the flood. When the water receded, it left behind a chasm five feet deep in some places, exposing utilities and stranding cars in driveways that took days to reconnect to the street.

Both the Rio Rancho City Council and the Sandoval County Commission passed disaster declarations and forwarded them to the state in hopes of getting financial help. State personnel recently inspected damage in the county, although Rios was less than optimistic about receiving much aid.

While simply restoring the damage would cost about $1 million, Rios said the county has drawn up a wish list of permanent repairs costing $2.8 million and currently being refined by the county's engineer. Big-ticket projects, if approved, would go on a capital-improvements list for work as money becomes available.

For Camino de las Huertas, Rios said the flooding damaged two of the six metal culverts at the creek crossing. The repair options, each increasingly costly, are installing heavier culverts protected by a concrete blanket, building concrete box culverts, or building a bridge, he said.

NM Rail Runner Station

New Mexico Rail Runner Station, US 550

Rail Runner passengers

First-day passengers on the Rail Runner





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