Storied Arroyo Seco ice cream shop to close current location

By Cody Hooks
Posted 3/7/19

The Taos Cow ice cream shop started in 1993. Over those 26 years, "the Cow" has become the cultural heart of Seco.

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Storied Arroyo Seco ice cream shop to close current location


Snow was falling over Arroyo Seco earlier this week as Brian Barnhart, a young dad getting ready to take his family skiing, was futzing with the seat belt of his kid's car seat. Making those final adjustments was his job while his wife was in the Taos Cow to get a couple cups of coffee.

It's not an everyday routine, but a ritual nonetheless. "This is our family's base camp on our way up the mountain," he said. But their ritual will soon have to shift.

The Taos Cow is closing its current location in Arroyo Seco on March 25, but its owners are looking for alternative spaces in Arroyo Seco or the town of Taos to reestablish the business within a few months.

The famed ice cream shop started in 1993. Over those 26 years, "the Cow" has become the "cultural heart of Seco," said Barnhart, a river guide during the summer.

He's not alone in thinking so. Even though the shop has been in three locations in Arroyo Seco (15 years in its current location), the Taos Cow is central to a lot of people's memories. Emma Smith, who has worked at the Cow for five years, grew up down the road and remembers playing at the old location. There's the group of about 15 bikers who ride to the Cow every Sunday morning. And as manager Curly O'Connor said, the coffee shop is basically a "living room" for the community, where locals and longtime visitors get together with friends, read the paper, moan about politics -- all the things that help make the small Seco community feel like a community.

Co-owners Jamie Leeson and Justin Young announced the closure over the weekend (March 2-3) with a sign on the door and a post on social media. They cited "irreconcilable landlord/tenant differences" as the reason to cease operations in their current location.

Ray Martinez, who owns the property, said the dispute was about installing a new septic system holding tank on the property. Martinez said at least three other people have inquired about renting the building, which once housed his dad's grocery store and gas station.

"We certainly regret any inconvenience our shutdown may cause our customers," said Leeson. "And we regret we have to let some people go." The Taos Cow employs about 20 people, he said, and the business has always "done our best to keep people employed during the lean times."

The Taos Cow produces its all natural ice cream at a facility in Santa Fe and will continue to do so, Leeson said. They use ingredients from a dairy in Albuquerque's South Valley to make ice cream in unique flavors like piñon caramel and "Holy Mole."

As far as future locations, Leeson said they are looking for a new rental property, preferably in Arroyo Seco.

They are also trying to open a food and ice cream cart that would be stationed in the Cow's current parking lot -- a separate rental property from the building itself that Leeson said the Cow would continue to occupy. He suggested a May opening for the downsized Taos Cow cart.


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