Sandy and David Espinosa, new owners of the Placitas
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, owners of New Mexico Aikikai Dojo
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
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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
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
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.