R&R Market



 Video courtesy of CBS4
Year Listed: 2019
County: Costilla
Construction Date: 1857
Threat When Listed: Challenging Rural Economic Conditions, Deterioration, Weatherization
Status: SAVE


SAVE UPDATE: After a successful transition to new ownership and completion of $94,306 in rehabilitation work, the oldest continuously operating business in Colorado, formerly known as the R&R Market and now known as the San Luis People’s Market, has been saved from an uncertain fate. Long time San Luis Valley resident, Dr. Devon Peña, who founded the Acequia Institute to promote water democracy, resilient agriculture, and environmental justice in the San Luis Valley, has taken on the challenge of operating the market, which has always been much more than just a grocery store. The Acequia Institute received a $1.5 million grant from the Colorado Health Foundation to help with acquisition of the R&R Market and its re-branding and transition to a new business model that ties the operation into the larger program initiative for Culebra River Acequia (community irrigation ditch) Communities in the Upper Rio Grande bioregion.

Prior owners Felix and Claudia Romero, who operated the market for 52 years and nominated it to Colorado’s Endangered Places in 2019, participated in the rehabilitation of key preservation priorities through the Colorado Main Street Open for Business Grant that was made in 2022. That grant resulted in storefront glazing, roof coating, repair of the historic character defining entryway/vestibule, exterior lighting, and painting of the façade. CPI congratulates the new owners and the Town of San Luis and looks forward to celebrating this “Save” of one of Colorado’s oldest historic resources.

ORIGINAL POST: R&R Market is the oldest continuously operated business in the State of Colorado, dating from its establishment in 1857 in the town of San Luis by Costilla County pioneer Dario Gallegos. The building was partially rebuilt after fires in 1895 and 1947 and is a contributing building to the San Luis de la Culebra National Historic District, listed under the themes of Hispano history, San Luis history, early trade and commerce, and politics. The R&R Market is a classic example of a family owned “legacy business” that is integral to the identity and economic viability of the community. While there is no immediate danger of the building being demolished, its closure as a business would not only end an important part of history in the state, but it would deprive this small, isolated community of its source of healthy food. San Luis and the surrounding villages can be considered a food desert, with major outlets being 16 or even 40 miles away. R&R Market is an important heritage site and, on a practical level, a save will mean retention of a much-needed source of healthy food for the community. 

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a timeless and beautiful place where the past so informs the future as San Luis, which is such a timeless and beautiful place in part because it was built around the R&R Market.”-Lisa May– EPP Nomination Reviewer

The building housing R&R Market was originally constructed of adobe bricks and has subsequently been modified with a combination of concrete block, plaster and stucco construction. The ground floor is the market and the upstairs includes rental units which were once part of a hotel. The original mercantile business was opened by Dario Gallegos in May, 1857, in a building 20 feet wide by 40 feet long, made of 25-inch adobe walls, with a foundation of rock with mud mortar. Today the building is a beautiful two-story log and stucco building in the Territorial Adobe style common to many plaza buildings that date back hundreds of years. The building retains its dignity and beauty despite cracks in the stucco, red roof tiles that are crumbling, and water damage to soffits. 

R&R Market still operates as a general store with groceries, hardware and other merchandise. It is owned and operated by Felix and Claudia Romero, who are descendants of the original owners and are now in their 70s. The Romero’s have 5 full time employees and support area farmers by selling local produce and meats. The site has received much state and national attention, including a 2017 feature article in the New York Times that highlighted the challenge of family business transitions in a struggling rural economy. In San Luis, this means finding a local buyer who can qualify for a loan, which is a challenge. Costilla County Commissioners, the Town of San Luis, and the Costilla County Economic Development Council stand ready to partner with CPI to save both the business and its use as a general store and food market. In some ways there may be no more historic site in Colorado than the R&R market in San Luis. 

In November 2021, it was announced that the market will receive part of a grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs’ (DOLA) Main Street Open for Business program. The grant will provide improvements to the participating businesses along Main Street in San Luis, including fresh paint, new signs, window repairs, doors, and lighting and efficiency improvements. Colorado Preservation, Inc. congratulates R&R Market and the other participating businesses on the grant award and wishes to acknowledge the work of the late Jeremy Elliott of Costilla County Economic Development Commission for his role in making it happen.