Mother, daughter share holiday bond
Decorating for Christmas is a unique exercise in city planning for Alicia Torrez and her 21-year-old daughter, Ariel Jaramillo.
Torrez, owner of D’Alicia’s Fine Jewelry in Los Lunas, started buying miniature lighted Christmas village houses when she was pregnant with her daughter.
“Every house since then has a meaning,” Torrez said.
When her husband, Rick, bought a motorcycle in 2002, a Harley Davidson shop with motorcycles was added to the village.
A veterinarian clinic had been added because “Ariel wanted to save animals,” said Torrez.
“My mom (Maria Torrez), she loves going to the casino, that’s why the casino is out there,” Torrez said. “My dad (José Torrez) was a butcher for 30 years, so (there is a) butcher shop. They each represent something.”
Before Torrez went into the jewelry business, she was in real estate for many years, that’s why you will find a real estate office in the village.
Her only nephew loves cars, so there is a car dealership for him.
“His father was a police officer killed in the line of duty,” Torrez said. “There is only one police officer in my village — to represent him.”
Each of the buildings were chosen for a special reason.
For the past 21 years, mother and daughter have purchased a new Christmas village building each year, growing the village to nearly 30 homes, businesses and churches. It has undergone economic growth that would make any municipality envious.
They have also purchased accessories for each building, and the village includes people, children and pets playing, trees, fire hydrants, a popcorn stand with popping action, business signs, streetlights, Christmas carolers, farm animals, bridges, wildlife, fences, street signs, park benches, a clock tower, playground and many other particulars.
Several of the businesses are named after local Valencia County companies.
“We’re now bringing Los Lunas into the village, so it has even more significance because our village has now become everybody’s,” Torrez said.
There is Sam’s Butcher Shop, Randy’s Electric Company Inc., the Branch Café, D’Alicia’s Fine Jewelry, Fashion Bug, Staples, First American Bank, The Home Depot, Hard Rock Casino, Burritos Alinstante, PnL Accounting, and the women are just getting started.
“I don’t tell people what businesses I’m going to have up there,” Torrez said. “They’ll come in (to D’Alicia’s Fine Jewelry) and you see the surprised look on their face. (They say) ‘Oh my gosh, we’re in your village,’ and they love it. They pull out cameras, take pictures and put us on Facebook.”
Locals have come to expect the Christmas village extravaganza at D’Alicia’s Fine Jewelry, and look forward to it.
“I had women coming in November telling me, ‘You are going to put the village up, right Alicia?’” Torrez said. “They’re questioning so they can bring in their grandchildren to see it.”
The village also has a theater, an S & H Green Stamps Redemption Center, a billiards hall, fire station and other businesses.
Torrez doesn’t use any one particular source to purchase the buildings, although she does use Lemax.
“They’re all different sizes,” she said. “I wanted my town to be just like any town — to have the older buildings, like my 2002 addition was the City Hall with the 2000 sign — they’re all different. I wanted it to look like a city that’s growing. I wanted it to grow with my daughter.”
Each building is carefully placed for perfect location, and the accessories are meticulously arranged with a jeweler’s fine eye for detail.
The holiday scenes are meant to evoke happy holiday memories spent with family and friends, and the display stretches along the back wall of the store for about 25 feet.
“The more you look at this little village, the more you want to add to it,” Torrez said. “Even though I tell myself I’m not going to do this anymore, I end up wanting to add so much more.”
It is contagious and encourages the inner child to surface and play.
“One lady tried to buy a house,” Jaramillo says giggling. “She was like, ‘How much is The Home Depot?’ Sorry ma’am, but those are not for sale.”
For years, they only set up the village at home, but now that its at the store, local people have gotten involved.
“They feel so comfortable coming in and giving me their opinions,” Torrez said. “They’ve made our village their village, and I think that’s what I love. So, not only did I have controversy with a building I removed last year, I have had them ask me how they can put their businesses into the village.
“The other thing that I love the most … is people tell me their stories of when they were kids, or they (recall), ‘You know, my mom used to have one of those. I’m going to have to find out what she’s done with it. Maybe we can put it up.’”
“My favorite this year is the butcher shop with the pigs,” said Jaramillo. “But my favorite building, I think, is the pink house. I remember giving her the pink house. I was pretty little, but I remember picking it out because pink is her favorite color.”
Due to limited space, several buildings and accessories aren’t on display, including Santa’s workshop with a reindeer barn, two trains, a ski lodge and a few more houses. It takes two days to set up as it is.
“People just love it, and everyone always says, ‘Wow, that’s big,’” Jaramillo said. “So, I’m sure people have seen — I’ve seen little table villages and stuff, but I don’t think everyone’s ever seen something this big, so they always comment on the size, and how long it probably takes, which it does.”
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