The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989


Sandy and David Espinosa

Sandy and David Espinosa, new owners of the Placitas Mini Mart

Placitas Mini Mart changes hands

The evolution of convenience-store gas stations in the village of Placitas took another step last month, when Sandy and David Espinosa bought the Placitas Mini Mart.

Carl Taraddei and his cousin Wayne Sandoval built the Placitas Mini Mart about fifteen years ago, taking over a market that had been cornered by Lizzie’s Mountain View Grocery since the mid-fifties, when the Placitas Trading Post moved down the hill. The trading post/post office opened in the 1930s.

The local stores have always been a focal point of the community, a place to pick up a few things to save a trip to the city, buy a newspaper, and catch up on the latest inside news and gossip. Sandy found out about the Placitas Mini Mart when she patrolled the area as a Sandoval County sheriff’s deputy. After she left the county, she held onto positive memories of the village and the store.

Sandy was working in emergency management for Sandia Labs when the Mini Mart went on sale. It took nearly six months, but the deal finally closed in January. Tragically, while the new and old owners were toasting with champagne, Sandy got a call from Albuquerque, informing her that her father had died.

“It was devastating,” she said. “I had to drop everything and go back to town, but Carl and Brenda kept the store open, just like they still owned it. They’re really good people. We hope to serve the community just as well.”

Along with gasoline and propane, the Espinosas will have canned vegetables, cheese, milk, eggs, yogurt, beans, bread, tortillas, chile, and other staples. Along with groceries, they will serve hot breakfast burritos, tamales, hot dogs, and coffee. They plan to keep a good stock of the things people need, at competitive prices.

“Everybody we have met has been so friendly and welcoming—from little kids to older people,” Sandy said. “It’s such a refreshing atmosphere.”

Sandy will run the Placitas Mini Mart on a day-to-day basis, with the help of her son, Billy. Her husband, David, and their two teenage daughters will help out on weekends.

For more information call 867-0437.

Kristina and Rikko Varjan
Kristina and Rikko Varjan, owners of New Mexico Aikikai Dojo

Kristina and Rikko Varjan
Kristina and Rikko practice with wooden swords

World-class martial artists return to Placitas

Kristina and Rikko Varjan are opening New Mexico Aikikai Dojo in March at the Homesteads Village suite formerly occupied by Placitas Video & More.

Rikko was a psychology professor at UNM in the late sixties and lived with his family in the village of Placitas. Kristina, a former ballet dancer from New York City, moved to New Mexico in the mid-eighties and started Albuquerque Aikikai.They met through their common connection with Aikido, married, and moved to San Diego for four years, where they studied seven days a week, six to eight hours a day, under a first-generation sensei who studied with the man who developed aikido in Japan a hundred years ago.

The founder developed throws, rolls, holds, as well as noncontact aikido techniques that return the energy of an attack to resolve conflict in a peaceful way.

Rikko is a Fifth Dan senior certified instructor with twenty-five years of experience. Kristina has studied for thirty years and is a Sixth Dan master teacher—one of only three women worldwide to have achieved this position. She will be honored in Japan next fall.

From San Diego, the Varjans moved to the big island of Hawaii and ran at a successful dojo on the grounds of the Koboji Buddhist mission in Kapaau. Students came from all over the island to practice under their guidance.

Kristina and Rikko recently returned to Placitas because they missed family, friends, and the place itself. The dojo will have wall-to-wall mats, surrounded by racks full of wooden practice swords. There are dressing rooms to change into the traditional white practice uniform.

Rikko said, “Aikido is a martial art of peace—it is noncompetitive training to resolve conflict in healthy and dynamic ways, learning to harmonize with yourself, other people, and nature. It stresses respect and preservation of life.”

Beginning classes will concentrate on learning to fall safely and roll, both forward and backward, and then to move on to throws. “There are many techniques, but students move at their own pace and find out what they can do,” Kristina explained. Classes for all ages will be forming in mid-March. Once students have committed to training they should be prepared to practice for about an hour, two or three times a week.

Kristina also has integrated aikido experience into her work as a certified practitioner in the Feldenkrais method. “Feldenkrais helps people develop an awareness of self and to become more comfortable in movement. It is a hands-on kinesthetic communication that can improve flexibility and alleviate muscular tension and pain,” she said. Group classes will be forming, and individual appointments are available by appointment.

For more information, you may call the Varjans at 867-1177. They will also be teaching aikido for college credit at UNM.





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