Magdalena’s Salome Store — doorway to the past

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The Salome Store has been a family-owned business since 1910.

The often rocky path that leads from yesterday to today runs smooth and little changed at the Salome Store in Magdalena, New Mexico. Located on Route 60, 25 miles west of Socorro, the family-run General Merchandise store opened its doors in 1910 and hasn’t closed them since.

An unsuspecting tourist, upon opening Salome’s door, might gasp from the effects of time-warp. In spite of florescent lights hanging from the pressed tin ceiling, a sepia-tone atmosphere reminiscent of an old photograph pervades.

Sunbonnets, cowboy hats hanging from elk antlers, saddles, dishes, blue jeans, and dry goods crowd the shelves and display cases while a giant pickle jar sits atop the long counter. “If you can’t find what you want, ask,” says Nick Sais from behind the counter. “If we haven’t got it, and you’re not in a hurry, we’ll get it.”

It’s hard to imagine Salome Store not having something, somewhere amidst the groceries, tools, blankets, towels, boots, lace doilies, socks, jackets, soft drinks, meat and Navajo jewelry. The warehouse across the street, a former dance hall, holds every kind of animal feed imaginable.

In the cool interior it’s still 1910, the year George Salome opened the doors to his general merchandise store. This was a few years after George and his wife Ida, who were both born in Lebanon, traveled from Oklahoma to New Mexico Territory and settled in the mining and cattle railhead town of Magdalena. Ida ran the store after George died and later their son, Morgan, managed it for almost half a century. Although Morgan died in 1987, he’s still a high-profile figure in Magdalena, remembered fondly by all who knew him. Right now, Carlotta, Morgan’s wife, and her son, Nick Sais, run the store, with her other son, Dennis Lucero, filling in to allow them an occasional day off.

Jill Salome, Morgan and Carlotta’s daughter, recites the family history while pointing out the store’s treasures, such as the case where brides’ dresses used to hang and the original safe. “You can sit on this old bench used for trying on shoes and enjoy a bottled coke,” she says, “and here’s the trapdoor leading to the basement where my father used to keep the shoes.” Salome Store’s regular customers are the ranchers from the area, the old timers in town, and the Navajos from nearby Alamo reservation.

Salome’s customers are far-reaching, too. A few years ago Michael Torres, a serviceman from Salem, New Mexico, stationed at Lakeheath Air Force Base in England, was startled to notice a fellow serviceman eating pinon nuts, a New Mexico delicacy. “Where did you get those?” he asked.

“My mother bought them at Salome Store in Magdalena,” was the reply.

“You won’t believe this,” Michael said. “My wife, Julie, just got a package of pinon from the daughter of the Salome Store’s owner.”

Small world, big store.