The Mercantile is the heartbeat of Sawmill Market, an artisanal food hall in Albuquerque. Inspired by a uniquely New Mexican ethos of open-armed hospitality — and the kitchens, pantries and living rooms that it’s borne from — The Mercantile is a testament to the abundant natural splendors and culinary prowess in The Land of Enchantment.

THE MERCANTILE

SAWMILL MARKET

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COMING SOON: CARIBBEAN HOTEL

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WEST

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LOCATION
Albuquerque, NM
ROLE
Interior Design
Brand Identity
YEAR
2020
partners
Client: Heritage Hotels
F&B Consultants: JLG Hospitality
Architect: API Plus
Photography: Read Mckendree
SELECTED PRESS

Built from the bones of a former lumber yard, The Mercantile is Islyn Studio’s modern interpretation of the stocked pantries of New Mexican luminaries. In conjuring the design, the Brooklyn-based studio conducted folkloric and historic research, divining the history of the structure, the psychogeography of the terrain and the real lived experience of Albuquerqueans.

Inspired by the New Mexican houses of Georgia O’Keeffe, Islyn envisioned The Mercantile as the Albuquerque kitchen of a fictional long-lost aunt with impeccable taste, whose house always smells of baked bread and who collects wild herbs and dries them from the rafters.

The open-air space thrums with the breezy spirit of the American Southwest: its soft, muted colors, lasting natural materials, beams of golden light and waxy cacti greenery. Divided into three distinct areas through the use of half-walls and intentional shelving, The Mercantile offers a full-service culinary experience with retail, cooking and dining on offer.

The Pantry is the hearth of the space, teeming with warmth. A wood-burning oven is constantly aglow, with chefs practicing traditional and rustic cooking techniques. Using materials that speak to regional New Mexican craft alongside found vintage pieces, the Wine Bar is designed as an invitation and inspiration, a transition from the outside world into the deeper heart of Sawmill Market. Offering local natural wines as well as a rotating list of selections from around the world, the bar is a natural confluence of guests and locals. The wood detailing around the bar is inspired by the intricate patterns of Navajo basket-weaving.

Handmade clay tiles lay the foundation for the space and floor-to-ceiling wooden shelves showcase local art and wild-foraged ephemera — dried white sage picked from highway medians, sun-bleached sticks from mountain walks and dark green jade from Mama’s Minerals across the street, alongside Hansellmann’s pottery vases and a curated selection of provisions, botanicals and handicrafts.

The confluence of organic materials and products helps tell the nuanced story of New Mexico’s abundant natural resources and offerings, eschewing the typical retail environment for something down-to-Earth, welcoming and human. 

The Cafe functions as an intimate eating nook in a friend’s kitchen, inspiring organic conversation and natural collaboration. A humble and relaxed environment, The Cafe offers a rotating, seasonal menu of small, nourishing plates from nearby farms — one of the few, true “farm-to-table” restaurants in the city — served on mid-century style tables and chairs hand-built from dark wood. 

The Wine Bar, Pantry and Cafe are three manifestations of a new culinary imagination in Albuquerque, a city that still relies heavily on processed foods and conventional produce. By emphasizing the handmade, the seasonal and the locally-foraged, The Mercantile is meant to inspire guests and locals about new ways of living that connect them to place and local culture. The result: a communal gathering place that’s both casual and sublime — a cafe, wine bar and pantry that fosters unexpected human experience and spurs a sea change in Albuquerque’s culinary imagination.