Box Road Brings Unique Antiques to Albuquerque

What happens when two friends and business partners with a passion for antiques come across a derelict 1928-era, Art Deco-style grocery store? Alex Hanna headed to Albuquerque to find out more about Box Road.

A Chance Meeting

When my husband and I moved into a new house years ago, we were faced with a very large cold floor, thanks to the previous owner’s DIY addition. Our feet were freezing, but, like a lot of new homeowners, our budget for remodeling was long gone. Luckily, we met Michael Ouellette who was working primarily in the rug business and was kind enough to loan us a luxurious, African-inspired, indigo carpet. That piece was worth far more than we could spend at the time, but it kept us cozy for months until we found something in our price range. That was years ago, but I still dream about that rug.

Michael still deals in rugs but now so much more. He and his business partner Donnie Volkart have been fixtures in Round Top, Texas–home of one of the country’s most popular antiques fairs–for years. Now they’re a lot closer to home, thanks to their new space near downtown Albuquerque. It’s a classic story of people with a passion for what they do who literally live and work out of the back of their trucks to find the best antiques and vintage and modern furnishings and accessories.

Connecting New Mexico to the Hispanic World

Michael and Donnie do lots of buying in Mexico City and have always had a strong connection to the aesthetics of the Hispanic world. When they came across the abandoned Arrow Grocery from the late 1920s in the Barelas district of Albuquerque–the oldest “barrio” in the city, established in the 17th century–they saw an opportunity to connect even more closely with the culture. Indeed, one of the very first things I saw when I arrived were the charming and mysterious faces sculpted onto a series of Oaxacan vessels. While the whimsy that animates these vessels seems to be a guiding force for their collections, it belies the amount of work behind the scenes: the massive remodel of the space, the countless hours traveling around the country and the world, and the efforts to connect objects with just the right owners.

Anything From Anywhere

Part of what makes the store’s style and creativity work is that they don’t limit themselves to Latin American objects or even to just old objects. You can find modernist gems and Scandinavia design sitting side by side quite happily. Distressed painted dressers proudly show their age, topped by French confit jars with crackled glaze. Tucked into weathered cabinets you’ll find folk-art pieces that beg the question: what is this for exactly? And there are what I’d call old-school antiques like 1800s English tableware and chests that look like they made the trip across the Atlantic covered with contemporary artisanal dinnerware and utensils.

The sum here is movingly greater than the parts, and It is this energetic juxtaposition that excites the imagination and feeds the soul. Cultural inspirations from around the world are beautifully curated in this transformed old grocery space in one of the oldest settlements in New Mexico. Both the space and its contents, now enjoying a new lease on life.

While much of their business is to the trade, don’t hesitate to visit, whether to shop or simply to get inspiration for your own interior design projects from these two passionate pros.

Story by Alex Hanna / Photography by Tira Howard

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