Little Sheri’s Playhouse at 225 Fisher Street sells unique and vintage items personally collected by owner/operator Sheri Armijo, a self-described “picker.” The store will open to the general public on March 9.
Photo by Peter Muldavin

A historic house on Fisher Street is now home to a unique little shop. The historic Jesus Maria Torres House at 225 Fisher Avenue dates back to 1912, and Sheri Armijo wants to share its legacy with the community by filling it with vintage items.

“It’s a resale shop, in between thrift store and antique store,” said Armijo, the store’s proprietor. “What my mother would call a ‘turn-about’ shop.”

Armijo said it has been her life-long dream to open a shop like this.

“I’m what people might call a ‘picker,'” she said. “I got it from my grandpa while I was growing up in Las Cruces. He was such a picker in those days. He would say, ‘dompe!’ and we would go to the town dump and pick. It was very common to find useful things and little treasures. You could find really good things if you know how to separate trash from treasure.”

The items she sells reflect Armijo’s skill at knowing what is either collectible or just unique in one way or another.

“I think it’s an art, being able to separate trash from treasure,” she said. “I grew up with that.

Just kind of knowing over the years would be of value to somebody, even if I didn’t like it. I knew it had to be saved otherwise it would end up at the dompe, you know.”

The balance of her inventory dates back to the 1950s.

Although. “some of the carnival ware might go back to the thirties,” Armijo said.

“There’ve been times when a family would inherit a house as is, and the family didn’t want to deal with all the stuff in there. They’d call me and say, ‘Sheri, you like old things, come and help us.’ I would help them and separate out things like glassware, the type they don’t make anymore. And vintage dolls. When I was a kid I would collect dolls.”

Real roller skates and vintage toy cars are for sale.
John Larson | El Defensor Chieftain

A look around the living room of the Torres house reflects a bit of cultural history.

Roller skates, porcelain plates and collectibles, some out-of-print books, metal toy trucks and cars, a wealth of glassware, even a treadle sewing machine and a fencing sword.

Most of the items were found either locally or elsewhere in New Mexico.

“I have roots here. My family was one of the founding families that came to Socorro back when it was a land grant,” she said.

According to the Socorro Land Grant Project, in 1815 or 1816, the Spanish government of New Mexico gave 70 families from Belen and other places in New Mexico a land grant in Socorro. These families staked their claims on parcels of land and started new lives in their new homes. Within a few years, they petitioned the governor of New Mexico for a title on the land. If a title was given, it disappeared or was destroyed soon afterward.

“My history connects to the families whose last names were Armijo, Baca, Montoya,” she said. “My direct ancestors left when there was a flood in the 1800s. This was not the San Marcial flood. It was at Luis Lopez. A lot of the families had to leave.”

The Homestead Act of 1862 offered opportunities for the families were displaced.

“My family was part of the homesteaders that ended up establishing Sierra County,” Armijo said. “There was no Sierra County at that time and they homesteaded it and helped populate that area.”

An educator by profession, she taught for 27 years both in Albuquerque, as wells as 17 years at Cottonwood Valley Charter School, teaching Spanish and New Mexico Culture.

“I was teaching mostly in Albuquerque. I started teaching at a Catholic school there,” she said. “My husband Ricardo (Berry) was working in Santa Rosa when we met and got married. We’ve been married for 17 years now. Ricardo’s heritage goes back to the Tome Land Grant. Tome hill. His father, Edwin, is the one that headed the revitalization of the pilgrimages up the hill.”

Their move to Socorro was the right decision.

“I told him I wanted to move to a smaller town, to have a small-town experience,” Armijo said. “I learned that at Socorro Consolidated Schools they were doing the kid’s version of La Pastorela in those days. That’s one of the reasons I chose Socorro because I need to be in a school that is still doing this, you know?”

They acquired the house four years ago.

Sheri Armijo has been collecting unique and vintage items all her life. Her shop, Little Sheri’s Playhouse, opens to the public next Tuesday.
John Larson | El Defensor Chieftain

“I always wanted to offer it to the community. We thought it would be nice for people to see the inside of the house, and having a little shop would a good way to accomplish that,” she said. The basic structure is a traditional square adobe style with a hipped roof of corrugated metal.

“The rest was mail-ordered,” Armijo said.

The windows, doors, and all the wood trim were purchased as a mail-order kit through Crabtree Lumber Company.

“It was very well made,” she said. “It’s been on the walking tour of Socorro for a long time.”

The turned columns on the front porch, which are unlike any others in Socorro, are the historical highlight for this house.

“It’s a little jewel, that really belongs to the community of Socorro,” Armijo said.

Little Sheri’s Playhouse inside 225 Fisher had a soft opening this week.

“The soft opening was by invitation, but starting March 9 the shop will be having regular hours,” Armijo said. “I can only allow three people in at a time because of COVOD restrictions.”

Hours are Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 3  p.m. Closed Sunday and Monday.

“I’m living the dream,” she said.

 

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