July 2012

The “Urban Store” in Albuquerque


Jack King



Sara Friederich calls herself one of “a huge group” of gardeners and small-animal raisers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe who are doing their part to resist the corporatization of the American food supply and eat fresher, healthier food. “When I think about the genetically modified plants being developed and the cost of transporting vegetables and fruit in our world, it just burns me up,” she says. “And, besides, there’s nothing like going out and picking the chard for your dinner from your own garden.”


The problem, she admits, is that she and her husband, Ron, live in a nice three-bedroom home “right smack in the heart” of Albuquerque’s Nob Hill neighborhood, with a spacious front yard, but a not-so-big backyard. There’s just no space for the kind of permaculture operation she wishes she could have.


That’s where the Urban Store comes in. At 3209 Silver Ave. SE, the Urban Store is a mecca of supplies and advice for many area residents who want to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Owners Chuck Alex and Kathy Isaacson sell “urban gardens” ‘self-contained, raised-bed, well-drained soil containers with hinged covers that shield plants from sun and bugs in the summer and snow and ice in the winter. The gardens retain enough heat that, by rotating their crops, customers can grow vegetables year ’round. Plus, they come in sizes that range from two feet by two feet to 16 feet by four feet—giving hope to would-be gardeners living everywhere from Tanoan mansions to rented apartments.


Alex and his staff have put their gardens in backyards, on patios and even on flat roofs. One local apartment complex maintains an urban garden for each of its units. Twenty schools have them to teach students where food actually comes from.


Using three of the Urban Store’s raised gardens placed between the back of her garage and her property line, Friederich who also mixes food plants in with her xeriscaping—is able to grow peas, tomatoes, herbs, eggplants, peppers, lettuce, arugula and edible flowers, as well as beets, radishes and all kinds of greens seasonally.


But urban gardens aren’t the store’s only products. Alex and Isaacson also offer seed, organic fertilizer, enclosed compost tumblers, rain barrels, beekeeping equipment, coops for chickens and rabbits, all manner of gardening supplies and even hydroponic units. The rain barrels and resin bases for the gardens are locally manufactured by Desert Plastics, and much, if not all of the plastic equipment is biodegradable.


Friederich, who got her worms from the Urban Store, keeps a worm composter in her pantry. She feeds scraps to the worms, which generate rich castings she can then transfer to a compost tumbler outside. “It’s enclosed and no one would ever know it’s there,” she says.


Alex and Isaacson also offer a variety of workshops on sustainable living and, if Sara Friederich’s experience is typical, they provide outstanding service after a sale. The store’s staff is friendly and helpful. By all indications, it’s a wonderful resource for beginners or experts.


The Urban Store is located at 3209 Silver Ave. SE. 505.508.2674, www.urbanstoreonline.com




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