The town of Dixon has always been a space nestled away from the relative busyness of Taos – a place in a canyon that maintains a slower, easier pace of life. Perhaps nothing illustrates this better than La Segunda Secondhand Store, which opened in July, 2020, amid a worldwide pandemic.

This isn’t just a regular thrift store. Opened by the Embudo Valley Library and Community Center, all of the money made from La Segunda goes to help fund the library, which is one of the few community facilities in town.

Since opening, the store has grown into much more than a place to buy clothes and home goods. It now finds itself as a kind of centerpiece of the community, helping with donations for many other organizations.

Somewhere to shop

With a population of around 400 residents as of the 2019 census, Dixon has long been a community that relies on the trust, security and help of neighbors. La Segunda has been an example of this.

With 14 volunteers and one paid part-time staff member, the store’s focus is on giving back to the community and providing a place for locals and tourists alike to shop.

Annette Maes is the woman behind the new store. Hired by the library to help get the boutique off the ground, she initially planned for a temporary “pop-up” business. With business booming beyond expectations, the store has turned into a permanent fixture in the community.

Maes explained there are very few places for Dixon locals to get out and shop. She said that's why the store has been so successful.

“We have no local shopping in Dixon,” she said. “It's nice that there's somewhere that people can actually go shopping within our community.”

Maes said La Segunda has “a little bit of everything for everybody” and said they are “quite meticulous” about what items they choose. “We only put the best quality stuff in our store," she said.

This isn’t to say that what they don’t use goes to waste. “We don't believe that anything is garbage. We believe that everything has its place and everything can be recycled or utilized by other entities.”

More than a thrift store

Because of the staff's commitment to sustainability, La Segunda has found itself in more than just the thrift business, and goes much further than providing used clothes for a reasonable price. 

“First, we just started with a thrift store. But it's become so much more than that,” said Maes.

Whatever the store doesn’t accept or can’t sell, they redistribute to other agencies. They donate to the SPOT, a community wellness center in Peñasco, which then donates to Clothes for Kids and the ReStore in the area.

La Segunda also donates bedding material and towels to the Dixon Animal Protection Society; jackets to Peñasco Independent School District students; and rags for local artists to use.

“We also donate to Habitat for Humanity in Española, CAV here in Taos, Mountain Home Health Care and places in Santa Fe … we really redistribute our donations,” said Maes.

As much as they help get clothing and goods to those in need, regardless of whether it’s through the store, Maes made clear that La Segunda “is not Dixon’s recycling center.”

A community crutch

Embudo Valley Library Director Rachel Exposito said La Segunda was “born out of a financial hit that the library took during the pandemic." She said the store helps provide a sustainable source of income for the library, which otherwise may have had to shutter its doors. “[La Segunda] has become an extremely important part of how we can afford to do what we do," she said.

Both Exposito and Maes noted that the Embudo Library was one of the only businesses in the area that did not close its doors during the pandemic and said the library has become an important community cornerstone as well.

“It serves all of the surrounding communities,” said Maes.

Maes said the library didn’t close “because there's no other place around the area of where we live, that people can actually like fax, email, make copies. There's so much support that our library offers the community around us.”

In 2015, the library won a National Medal for Museum and Library Service from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The library was one of 10 recipients of the medal, which is the highest honor given to museums and libraries for outstanding community service. The library's previous executive director Felicity Fonseca and youth volunteer Joseph Estrada traveled to Washington, D.C. where Michelle Obama presented them with the medal. 

Then, in 2020, the library received a Civil Society Award from the Manhattan Institute, a New York-based think tank. The library won a prize of $25,000 and national recognition, beating out more than 200 other nonprofits to be one of five finalists. 

Going forward, Exposito said she sees La Segunda as an important part of the library’s funding. “It provides a sustainable source of income for the library. That has become an extremely important part of how we can afford to do what we do.”

She said “about 15 to 17 percent” of the library’s funding comes from government sources. Otherwise they rely heavily on individual donations and grant funding, which can take time and effort. “If we can get money from another source that doesn't involve a grant, that is always a good thing.”

Exposito hopes La Segunda will bring in around $40,000 this year; “a substantial chunk.”

“I really can't emphasize enough how helpful it is to have the store here to make the library and the whole organization more sustainable for the long term,” she said.

A community-wide effort

Maes said the store wouldn’t be what it is without the generous donations of private individuals or the help of the 14 volunteers who volunteer several hours each week to help run it.

They put an advertisement in the Dixon Town Crier, created an email thread and started a news bulletin. Eventually the volunteers started to trickle in.

“I got volunteers from all facets of life,” said Maes. “Without them, we wouldn't be where we're at today.” She said when they first opened last July, all the volunteers were located through word of mouth.

Even with dedicated volunteers working three-to-four-hour shifts, Maes said running the store is “a lot of hard work. We work very hard to do all the things that we do within our store.”

She said Dixon doesn’t see the same tourist action as Taos, so their busiest days are usually Wednesdays, when the community holds a food drive and people come into the store for a chance to shop.

Maes said she thinks La Segunda has found its place in the community, but said they are “working very hard to not let it become its own business, so it continues to be able to support the library.”

She admitted that stores like hers might not stay in business in a different sort of community, a place without the same tight-knit values that Dixon resident share.

“I grew up in Dixon, and I've moved [all around Northern New Mexico] but I've made my way back … because it’s just such a peaceful, quiet place. We still have a huge sense of community, whereas I have not found that in other communities.”

La Segunda Secondhand Store is located at 217 Hwy 75 in Dixon. They are open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Thursdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

 

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