Though the familiar red block letters bound to its facade will continue to hang, the Super Save located at the intersection of Paseo del Pueblo Sur and Albright Street will undergo a major overhaul in the coming months.
Lowe's Market of Littlefield, Texas, a subsidiary of Pay and Save Inc., completed the acquisition of the supermarket Jan. 27, closing out an 18-year run for Rusty Russell, longtime general manager of Super Save, and ushering in a new era for the Taos grocery store.
"We appreciate the Russell family for [their] many years of service to the Taos and Ratón communities, and we are honored that we have this opportunity to include these stores into our family of grocery stores," said Roger Lowe Jr., second-generation vice president and CEO of Lowe's Market.
The family operation began in 1964 under the leadership of Lowe's father (Roger Lowe Sr.) with the opening of a Pay and Save in the small town of Olton, Texas.
The company operates 152 stores under various banners throughout the Southwest, including Texas, Colorado, Arizona and Kansas - in addition to areas of New Mexico that include Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Ratón, Angel Fire and now Taos.
Other recognizable supermarket names under the Lowe's flag include Food King, Corner Market, Signature Store and Lowe's Mercado.
The plan with the Taos store is to provide an overhaul of the operation, all while maintaining a certain degree of familiarity for customers who have been shopping there for years. The first step in accomplishing this, Lowe's management said, was to include all staff members who have been around in the transition. Several new hires have already been brought in to bolster the store's ranks.
"Pay and Save Inc. intends to continue operating the stores in Taos and Ratón under the Super Save format, providing all the same great products as in the past, as well as adding many new services and products in the future," said Tim Cotton, chief operating officer.
The new products set to roll out in the near future include fishing and hunting licenses, lottery tickets, many new food products and, with the recent acquisition of a full liquor license, beer, wine and spirits for the first time in the store's history.
Supervising the transition is a team of Lowe's area managers and trainers who arrived this week to retrain employees, rethink in-store product placement, introduce new products and give the store a good once-over before it receives a fresh coat of paint and some new signage.
Overseeing that team is Jesus Martinez, 32, also the general manager of the Super Save located in Angel Fire. He will now undertake management of the Taos location.
"I grew up in Las Vegas [New Mexico]," Martinez said. "I've been around retail all my life. My dad worked in the business, too. I started managing the Angel Fire store in 2004. I'll be managing both stores now."
Martinez emphasized that Lowe's is a family-oriented, neighborhood business. To him, this means that each store is unique and fills its shelves with the products and service its community calls for.
George Higginson, meat department supervisor, 63, agreed, explaining the difference between a Lowe's operation and that of some other major grocer chains.
"We follow a neighborhood approach," Higginson said. "Smith's and Albertsons are both larger companies, so their merchandising approach is kind of cookie cutter. They take a concept that works and reapply it to every store. If you go into one of those stores here and then go to one in Santa Fe or Albuquerque, you'll see the same setup every time. We set our stores up according to what the neighborhood wants."
Higginson added that this means retaining old products while listening to the feedback from members of the local community as far as what they would like to see in terms of new ones.
Leo Pacheco, 49, has worked in the grocery business all his life. After bouncing around a bit among larger grocery stores in the area, he says he found that Russell's operation was the best place to work in town.
"I worked with Rusty for almost 13 years, and I've been working with Lowe's for about a week now," he says and laughs, though he doesn't seem at all concerned about the transition. "This is what I know: I love working with the people here. We have great employees and the Lowe's folks really seem to be good people - intelligent, customer service oriented. They know what it takes to do this job, and they get in there and do the work."