A spark of new economic energy is coming alive in Datil.

In a small room in the once-abandoned relic of the Navajo Lodge, a Datil couple has rented space and soon will turn on the lights of what they’re calling their 3 Star General Store.

The venue is near the crossroads of US 60 and NM 12, a stone’s throw from the Datil post office, across the road from a thrift store, and across the highway from the long-running Eagle Guest Ranch.

Opening day is planned for May 6, a Saturday.

For Zak and Krista Starer and their 11-year-old daughter, Luna, the general store is a dream of sorts. The store will bring to Datil-area residents, and to anyone who drops in, merchandise that in some cases one must drive an hour or more into Socorro to find or nearly three hours to Albuquerque to purchase.

For the past few weeks, a small sign has hung in a small window on an outside wall of the Navajo Lodge, proclaiming just “Coming soon! GENERAL STORE.”

Why such a store? “More commercial options.” That was the simple answer Zak offered during an interview in mid-April. Cans of food were stacked on shelves. Boxes of canned food that had already been delivered stood between the aisles, waiting to be shelved. An old refrigerator stood against the back wall.

As for the financial viability of such a general store in a town that has steadily lost population over the years, Zak said that, yes, it’s a “leap of faith,” but he’s confident that people will come in.

“No risk, no reward,” he said.

Organic food will be the calling card of the 3 Star General Store.

Pricing will be competitive with online food orders and trucking services.

Zak does not see 3 Star General Store as a direct competitor to the grocery section of the Eagle Guest Ranch across the highway.

Longtime Datil residents Blaine and Jacquie Atwood and their staff capably operate a grocery, restaurant, motel, a couple of gas pumps, and an RV facility at the Eagle Guest, as it’s referred to locally. There, one can buy a gallon of milk, a slice of pie, a cup of coffee, fresh meat, jerky, cookies, six-packs of drinks, mustard and mayonnaise, a bag of chips — pretty much anything one finds on the shelves of a typical grocery. It’s also Datil’s primary gathering place for food, drink and socializing. A bulletin board near the Eagle Guest’s cash register is covered with announcements of events and other goings-on, small and large.

Zak said his store “will add to” what a customer finds at the Eagle Guest.

They plan to open every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday — the same days the Datil-area dump just down the road is open. People already come to town on those three days, Zak said, so it makes sense to mirror that schedule. The store will be open for three or four hours each of those three days, at least in the beginning.

A primary supplier of the food he’ll sell will be delivered by a firm known as Azure Standard, which has an online presence. Its website says it’s “. . . a place to purchase natural, organic, non-GMO and environmentally friendly products . . .”

Zak also said that if a shopper does not find just what they want, he would consider ordering it and then stocking it.

For example, Bryan Shillington, who along with his wife Kelly, own the Navajo Lodge building in which the general store is located, needed some staples for fix-up work he was doing at the Lodge — so Zak ordered some.

Other merchandise the general store will sell includes art and craft supplies; a “modest supply” of hardware; locally made goods such as soaps; tourist items; bulk food; apothecary products; organic food and produce; products that a home-schooled child might want; home goods; office supplies; and what Zak calls “fun gifts.”

He said he would like to see the general store eventually become a venue for classes that community members might find of interest, for meetings of various groups, and for art instruction.

The store’s phone number will be (575) 740-9997. Its email address will be [email protected]. An Instagram page also has been set up.

Update on the Navajo Lodge

Little by little, Bryan Shillington is renovating the Navajo Lodge.

Major clean-up efforts have been underway for more than two years, since he purchased the place. The entire building was, and most of it still is, in disrepair, with broken windows, caved-in roofs, rotted ceilings.

Shillington’s undertaking has included adding a metal roof on part of the structure, removing fallen-in sections of roof, hauling refuse to the dump, and making other necessary changes. Other than the small space for the 3 Star General Store and space where Bryan keeps wood carvings and other handiwork he creates, the general store is the first occupant of the Lodge.

Shillington described his vision for the place via email:

“My dreams for the Lodge are to open it up to the public and give town’s people a space to shop and work. A shopping center, gallery, garden, and places for folks to rent a space and have a piece of the town.

“The Lodge has been an eyesore for over 20 years, and my main intentions are to make it look better. It will likely never be a hotel or restaurant again nor do I intend to sell out to a Dollar General or other chain store.

“I see Zak’s store as a place where people can go to skip a trip to Socorro. After all, there are people who live more than an hour down a dirt road from here, making Datil their closest town, and it’s wear and tear on vehicles that ruin people’s financial situations. A shopping center where town folk can provide for town needs and have a space to run a saddle shop or art studio and make a bit of money would be good for everyone.”

Jim Wagner, Special to the Chieftain