Los Alamos Chamber: 2023 Business Of The Year Recipients

Los Alamos Daily Post

Eight local businesses have been voted the favorite in their category by the community through the annual Chamber Business Awards program:

  • 2023 Best New Business of the Year Award: SALA Los Alamos Event Center;
  • 2023 Family-Friendly Business of the Year: Little Studio on the Mesa;
  • 2023 Financial Institution Business of the Year: Del Norte Credit Union;
  • 2023 Non-Profit of the Year: PEEC – Los Alamos Nature Center;
  • 2023 Restaurant of the Year: Muy Salsas;
  • 2023 Retail Business of the Year: Pet Pangaea LLC;
  • 2023 Service Business of the Year: UPEX & Gifts LLC; and
  • 2023 Woman Owned Business of the Year: Los Alamos Daily Post.

The Chamber selected two additional recipients for their notable work:

  • 2023 Chamber Community Partner Award: University of New Mexico – Los Alamos; and
  • 2023 Sustainable Los Alamos Award: Wheeed!

Chamber member businesses were nominated by the public and the top five nominated businesses in each category moved on to the voting phase. This year there were almost 1,300 votes cast by the public. 

The Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Community Partnerships Office sponsored the 2023 Chamber Business Awards.

The awards will be presented to the winners on stage Friday night, June 2 at the Summer Concert at Ashley Pond Park.

The nominees and winners in each category are:

2023 Best New Business of the Year: SALA Los Alamos Event Center

Owner Allan Saenz 

SALA Los Alamos Event Center, a locally owned and community-supported establishment, has successfully transformed the beloved Reel Deal movie theater into a vibrant community hub. It has evolved beyond being just a movie theater, offering a diverse range of events and experiences for all ages. SALA embodies the vision of utilizing technology to provide unique and immersive encounters for its patrons. At SALA, you can enjoy the latest Hollywood releases, including notable films like “Oppenheimer” while also relishing the rich history of Los Alamos. The term SALA, derived from Spanish, conveys the essence of a communal gathering space, reminiscent of a Kiva. It embodies the collaborative effort and shared vision of creating a better Los Alamos. In addition to showcasing movies, SALA serves as a rental venue for various occasions, including birthday parties and other social gatherings. The center encourages community participation, aiming to be a platform that fosters engagement, connection, and celebration. It provides a much-needed space that the community desired, offering opportunities to showcase local talent, share cultural heritage, and build a stronger sense of community. Looking to the future, SALA has exciting plans in store. It aims to continually expand its offerings by incorporating cutting-edge technology and providing immersive experiences. The center also seeks to collaborate with local organizations, schools, and artists, fostering a platform for creativity and learning. SALA Event Center is a testament to the power of community support and engagement. Through its transformation of the Reel Deal into a multi-purpose venue, SALA has become a cherished destination, serving the diverse needs and aspirations of the community. Visit sala.losalamos.com

Nominees: High Mountain Wellbeing, Inspired Jewelers, Jemez Mountain Brewhouse, and Wolf & Mermaid Enchanted Roasters.

2023 Family-Friendly Business of the Year: Little Studio on the Mesa

Owner Joanne Kozuchowski

Little Studio on the Mesa at 113 Longview Drive in White Rock is a longtime dream of owner Joanne Kozuchowski. She has created a unique family centered art activity space. Part working artist studio and retail gallery featuring classroom space and drop-in art activities including paint your own pottery, fused glass and canvas painting opportunities, Little Studio on the Mesa offers something for everything. Visit littlestudioonthemesa.com.

Nominees: En Pointe School of Dance in Los Alamos, The Family YMCA, PEEC – Los Alamos Nature Center, and SALA Los Alamos Event Center.


2023 Financial Institution Business of the Year: Del Norte Credit Union

President/CEO Chuck Valenti

Storytelling is a way of life in Northern New Mexico and at Del Norte Credit Union it is no different. Our story began 69 years ago. Del Norte Credit Union is a state-chartered, community credit union originally chartered in 1954 as Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory Credit Union. In 1959, the Credit Union’s name changed to Los Alamos Employees Credit Union, membership grew to 2,717 members, and the first full-time manager was hired. In 1975, our name changed to Los Alamos Credit Union and our field of membership (FOM) was expanded to include all persons living or working in Los Alamos County. Membership continued to grow reaching 16,825 and accounts became federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). In 1981, the Credit Union (CU) became a community charter credit union opening the FOM to individuals in the surrounding communities. During the early 1980’s, we merged with two other Credit Unions, Raton and Roswell and expanded our field of membership. In 1998, we merged with Santa Fe Federal Employees Federal Credit Union (SFFEFCU). SFFEFCU was the oldest Credit Union in New Mexico, established in 1935. In 1999, our name was officially changed to Del Norte Credit Union (DNCU) to represent the larger geographical area we serve. DNCU currently provides financial products and services to 63,632 members in four primary markets: Los Alamos, Española, Santa Fe and Rio Rancho while maintaining $1.1 billion in assets. Although DNCU is open to serve the broader field of membership, we are currently focused on building relationships in Northern New Mexico. DNCU is a not-for-profit financial cooperative owned by its members and governed by a volunteer Board of Directors (BOD). A cooperative (Co-op) is an independent group of people who come together to address a common need through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise. DNCU is not about profit maximization but improving lives while balancing long-term sustainability (earnings and net worth) with member, community, and regulatory requirements. We have deep roots in Los Alamos County and whole-heartedly support the local businesses; we are honored to be recognized by the community and we congratulate all businesses that are being recognized. Our vision is to be the Ideal Partner for a Better Future. Our workforce does this by building relationships, doing the right thing, and being incredible. Visit dncu.com.

Nominees: Century Bank, Enterprise Bank & Trust, Los Alamos Schools Credit Union, and Zia Credit Union.

2023 Non-Profit of the Year: PEEC – Los Alamos Nature Center

Executive Director Jillian Rubio

The Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC) was begun in 2000 by a small group of citizens devoted to bringing environmental education to Los Alamos. Today it has grown into a thriving, award-winning organization operating out of the Los Alamos Nature Center. PEEC provides hikes and outings for the public, hands-on, interactive classroom lessons and field trips for pre-K-12, public lectures and classes, a planetarium with weekly astronomy shows, and much more. In a typical year, PEEC serves over 30,000 people from Los Alamos, Northern New Mexico, around the state, and around the world. PEEC’s goals are to increase access to outdoor activities for families, children, and adults through nature-based programming while creating and fostering integrated systems of support for communities across north-central New Mexico. Visit peecnature.org.

Nominees: Family Strengths Network, The Family YMCA, Los Alamos Family Council, and Los Alamos Public Schools Foundation.

2023 Restaurant of the Year: Muy Salsas

Co-owner Christine Martinez

Patricia Corral and daughters Gisel Martinez and Christine Martinez co-own Muy Salsas at 1315 Trinity Dr. “We are very excited to receive the award for Best Restaurant of the Year,” Christine said. “It has been an adventure since we decided to open Muy Salsas. The restaurant is a year old, but those who know us, know that we have been catering since 2018! Our food is cooked with love, and recipes that are older than our great grandmother. We have invested everything including tears, sweat, and blood into this restaurant, and we want to dedicate this award to our employees who are hardworking, and loyal to our cause. We want to thank all the community of Los Alamos, and community neighbors  who have supported, and appreciated our cuisine. Finally, we want to invite, and welcome everyone who has not tried our food! We are authentic Mexican cuisine and our team is ready to serve, and provide a great experience for everyone! Thank you!” Visit muysalsas.

Nominees: Blue Window Café, Pajarito Brewpub & Grill, Pig & Fig Café, and Ruby K’s Bagel Café.

2023 Retail Business of the Year: Pet Pangaea LLC

Owner Cyndi Wells

In late 2004, Cyndi Wells stood with some teammates after canine search and rescue practice with her dog Hana, discussing the recent closure of the only pet supplies store in town. She lamented that it would be an hour-long trek to get the nutritious pet food that Hana deserved. She thought somebody should open a store. She had a Ph.D. in chemistry and worked at LANL, but thought, “Well, why not me? Our community deserves a place to buy high-quality supplies and nutritious pet foods at good prices.” In February of 2005, the store opened with a mission to contribute to the well-being of pets. She planned Pet Pangaea LLC from the perspective of what would make her happy as a customer and, although she thought she had been feeding her pets well, she learned some surprising information about pet nutrition and pet supplies in her research. She realized an important part of the store would be to arm pet parents with information to empower them to make the best decisions for their pets. This realization resulted in a rigorous initial and ongoing training program for the Pet Pangaea crew. Pet Pangaea has not only served as a place for the community to purchase pet food and supplies for all types of pets but is also a hub of the local pet community with regular events like Downtown Dogs. Pet Pangaea employs a crew of knowledgeable Pet Specialists who are passionate about pet well-being and eager to help pet parents and their pets live their best lives together. Visit petpangaea.com.

Nominees: The Cricket Window, Flowers by Gillian, Inspired Jewelers, Samizdat Bookstore & Teahouse, and Village Arts.

2023 Service Business of the Year: UPEX & Gifts LLC

Co-owner Yasmin Acosta

UPEX & Gifts, LLC at 108 Central Park Square is co-owned by Yasmin Acosta and her father Eliverio Acosta. UPEX & Gifts, LLC is the go-to resource for packing, shipping, printing and business service needs of the residents and businesses of Los Alamos, N.M. The gift store offers a wide variety of fine jewelry and gifts and watch and jewelry repair. The UPEX & Gifts, LLC team of dedicated, professionally trained experts understands the meaning of Super-Star Customer Care—and focuses on saving you time and money by ensuring you get the right products and services at the right price—in a single, quick visit. We can pack and ship [almost] anything to [almost] anywhere in the world, but shipping is only one way we can help to make your life easier. In addition to our pack and ship service, we are also Los Alamos’ premier copy, print and document services center. Large or small, black and white or color; if it can be printed, UPEX & Gifts, LLC can handle it! UPEX & Gifts, LLC is a one-stop-shop for dozens of business products and services that will allow you to do what you’re good at while we take care of the “other stuff” you need to succeed. Visit upexnm.com.

Nominees: Exit Realty Advantage NM, Eye Associates of New Mexico, High Mountain Wellbeing, and Inspired Jewelers. 

2023 Woman Owned Business of the Year: Los Alamos Daily Post

Owner/Publisher Carol A. Clark

The Los Alamos Daily Post (Post) is the Official Newspaper of Record in Los Alamos County. Owned and operated by Carol A. Clark, the online newspaper launched Feb. 7, 2012, and is a member of the New Mexico Press Association, New Mexico Press Women Association, Online Newspaper Association, National Press Women Federation and National Newspaper Association. The Post has expanded its readership into every state in the nation and 129 countries around the world. The paper achieved over 1 million monthly page views in 2015. The news team works in collaboration with citizens throughout the community, from its world headquarters at 1247 Central Ave. in downtown Los Alamos. The paper’s number one goal is to bring readers the best in local news coverage. The Post began publishing a weekly print edition in July 2015, which is delivered to every home and business in Los Alamos and White Rock and distributed through news racks around the community. Visit ladailypost.com.

Nominees: Dragonfly Playhouse Daycare, En Pointe School of Dance in Los Alamos, High Mountain Wellbeing, Little Studio on the Mesa, and Muy Salsas.

The Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce selected two 2023 awards to be presented to the following recipients for their notable work:

2023 Chamber Community Partner Award: University of New Mexico – Los Alamos

Chancellor Mike Holtzclaw

UNM-Los Alamos is an innovative, rigorous, and affordable comprehensive branch community college that provides foundations for transfer, leading-edge career programs, and lifelong learning opportunities. UNM-Los Alamos offers a number of outstanding programs and services to meet a variety of student needs and interests. We offer certificate programs and associate degree programs; community education and customized training courses; small business development seminars through our Small Business Development Centers (Los Alamos and Sandoval Counties); Adult Basic Education programs including High School Equivalency credential (HSE) and English as a Second Language (ESL); and bachelor and graduate degree programs through UNM’s Distance Education Program. Visit losalamos.unm/edu.

2023 Sustainable Los Alamos Award: Wheeed!

Co-owner Jonathan LeDuc

Wheeed! Los Alamos’ first cannabis business started in August 2022 by Jonathan LeDuc and Eric Laskie, and after graduating in the first class of the Retail Accelerator Program opened for cannabis business on April 20, 2022, to amazing success selling medical and recreational cannabis, edible products and cannabis accessories. An enormous amount of packaging plagues the new cannabis industry and in an ongoing attempt to reduce its carbon footprint and keep an eye toward environmental sustainability, Wheeed! employs multiple strategies including compostable packaging, BPA/BPS free receipts, weighing product to purchase, discounts for using approved reusable child resistant bags, cartridge recycling (courtesy of BLOOM), and stainless steel/glass for bulk product storage. In addition, Wheeed, LLC is actively recycling any and all cannabis packaging we receive. When engaging with producers, Wheeed! always makes it a priority to favor farms and manufacturers that also pay attention to environmental concerns. Four out of five of its farmers are micro cannabis businesses (200 plants or less) that focus on organic growing methods and sun grown cannabis. (Wheeed!’s  other producer is a large, but organic producer.) “While we have made these meaningful strides, the battle is never over. We will continue to examine ways to reduce our footprint.” Visit wheeed.us.

“Please be sure to congratulate all nominees and winners of the 2023 Chamber Business Awards!,” Chamber Director Ryn Herrmann said. “And don’t forget … we’ll see you at ChamberFest Street Fair, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 3, on Central Avenue!”

To become a Chamber member or for more information, visit LosAlamosChamber.com or contact Ryn Herrmann at 505.661.4807, ryn@losalamos.org or Sam McRae at 505.661.4816, sam@losalamos.org.

About the Chamber:

The Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation’s mission is to build a vibrant community through a thriving economy by leveraging public and private sector investment to achieve sustainable economic development. LACDC works to drive economic progress by providing services to businesses using its broad portfolio of programs and initiatives.


ladailypost.com website support locally by OviNuppi Systems