Alma Duran is the kind of woman you want to run into in the course of a day. And, since she operates one of the community’s meeting places, Duran’s Gas and Grocery, this is possible and highly recommended. Her engaging personality and optimism are immediately evident.
Located at the corner of Highway 522 and Junction 196 in Costilla, the business has been a constant for the entire area. Run by the Duran family since its early days, current proprietor Alma Duran re-acquired the business in August of 2020. “I [originally] bought the business from my parents back in 1991 and ran it until January of 2016, when I sold it to my cousin Mark and his wife. After Mark died, the business fell back into my hands,” Alma Duran explains. Formerly, it was an Alta Station, and became a Phillips 66 this past January.
Duran runs the business with her two daughters, Jannifer and MariaLuz. Both women moved back in 2020 to help their mother re-establish the store. (A third daughter, Andrea, lives in Denver.) Duran added, “The girls have had their own careers… after my husband and I got the store back a year ago, they were a great help in getting it into top condition and getting us out of a four-year retirement.”
Since re-acquiring the business, she has made many improvements, including new flooring, light fixtures, and shelving, installing new fuel pumps to comply with government regulations, and ensuring that the market is well-stocked.
She credits her daughters and enthusiastic employees for the market’s vibe and success. “Barbara Molina has worked for me since 1993. She has been a big help and typically works weekends. Richard Rivera, originally from Costilla, moved back from Denver after retiring in retail. He then cooked for the Amalia Senior Center where he got his second retirement. Amber Martinez is our newest addition. We have been blessed with good help.” A big draw is the morning burritos made by Rebecca Carson (Alma’s niece and the market’s cook). Folks come in daily for both breakfast and green chile cheeseburger burritos. Rebecca’s son, Damien Carson, painted a beautiful original mural over the seating area.
Her business plan is simple; she caters to the locals with necessary items so that people don’t have to travel all the way to Taos to shop for staples. And they welcome summer-only visitors. She likes to stock a little bit of everything, “If someone just needs flour or cooking oil, they can come in and get it. During the winter and slower months the locals keep the business afloat. So, THANK YOU, locals!” Duran said. Folks have seen great value in this service, especially during the pandemic.
The market did get back to “somewhat regular” business levels this spring after pandemic closures. Duran requires that shoppers wear face masks and her team is adamant about sanitizing. “I implemented that people start wearing masks in the store to help keep our community safe. I know during the pandemic a couple of local customers bought all of their staple foods here to keep out of more congested stores,” she said.
The Duran family has lived in the region for generations. Alma describes the closeness of people in the area and a multi-century commitment to the region. “Costilla was established in 1849. Our ancestors came through the Rio Grande. Some came from Spain and married into the Native American culture. Costilla truly has a small hometown feel. The market is a meeting place where people run into one another and where locals get together to have coffee every morning and chat. “COVID-19 was a hard time for people getting together. So now they are catching up.”
She is upbeat about what it is like to live and own a business in the area with its small-town culture, “We are there in times of need… if someone from the community passes, everyone is there to help and for support. Everyone is there for everyone.”