Discovering Stored Treasures

Discovering Genealogy, One Ancestor at a Time.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

La Tienda Part II

Continuation from last week's post: La Tienda Part I

Crowding the back of the garage for over a year, the Tienda, stood unused and decaying. There was no  garage storage space and the office remained without a proper bookshelf. As much as my genealogy materials called out at me to be properly archived, I couldn't allow myself to spend thousands of dollars on a new bookcase. I felt stuck! Out of frustration, we decided to do the second best thing: unpack and put together the Mexican bookcase for use as garage storage. Not ideal, I admit, but better than letting the tienda continue to deteriorate the due to lack of maintenance and use.

A friend, who in turn hired three more friends and two large ladders, helped assemble the heavy shelves. The fixture looked completely out of place (sorry, I don't have a picture), housing balls, bicycle helmets and coolers, but at least we had somewhere to store our junk. It was not a pretty sight. The garage, overwhelmed by the sheer size of this bulky bookcase, remained only a tiny bit more functional and marginally less crowded.

Three weeks ago, everything came to a head, when I was leaving for the little league match. I needed a folding chair which was awkwardly placed on the bookshelf between a couple of elegant columns. In the process of squeezing myself between the car and the bookshelf, I knocked over three bikes. Though I hate to admit this in public, I just about lost it that day. My frustration with the garage just about boiled over and I could not believe that the garage would stay so tight and messy indefinitely.  I called my local version of Don Miguel, our trustworthy neighborhood handyman—Lincoln, and asked him to take a look at the garage and somehow find a place for a bike rack.

Lincoln, examined the situation closely. Since the bookcase took up eighty percent of the back wall of the garage, he suggested,  hanging the bikes from the ceiling.. This solution generated some problems and he questioned me about the bookcase which clearly looked out of place. When I relayed a briefer version this saga, explaining how there was no way to get the bookcase into its' intended destination, I noticed a sparkle in his eyes. He listen politely and then proclaimed: "I can do it. I can take it apart. I love this kind of delicate projects!"

"Really? Are you sure?" I asked in disbelief.

He took a few steps up and down the gigantic bookshelf, tapped the sides and examined the construction and then stated emphatically, that what I thought was impossible, could definitely be done. His plan involved pulleys to get the longer parts through one of the small third floor window, but he was confident quite confident it would succeed.

One of third floor office windows used
 to pull up the bookshelf. It is the smallest window
 in the house measuring about 2'x3.5'
I knew Lincoln was the man for the job! It took four days, one assistant and a lot of patience. He disassembled the old bookshelf into more than fifty smaller parts, three of which were eleven foot long. Lincoln even found a small bullet embedded into the ancient wood, which he extracted and handed over to me for safekeeping. Last week, after spending two unhappy years in the garage, the Mexican Tienda appeared like new—or more like—unharmed in my office!

My mission now is to bring the bookshelf to it's original glory. I spent the weekend, rehydrating the thirsty wood with oil and then stacking it with books and office supplies, some of which have been in boxes for as long as the Tienda spent in the garage. The garage is now empty and ready to receive proper garage storage shelves which Lincoln will build. Finally, the office has become a pleasant place to work! I bring you this post from my antique desk (a desk with its' own story). Every few minutes, I can not help but raise my eyes and glance with amazement at the miracle of having La Tienda here with me. The bookshelf is so large, that it now houses not only many of my books, but also most of the family photos albums and my genealogy files.  Best of all, it displays many photos of my ancestors as well as my descendants. For lack of display space, they were in storage for quite some time. These vintage photos have accompanied me along my genealogy journey and inspired my work and it is a wonderful feeling to be able to enjoy them again!

La Tienda, in the third floor office!
Lincoln had  the foresight to. when possible, use screws rather than nails, making disassembly easier in the unlikely possibility of needing to move the bookcase in the future. We are also adding a library ladder make the top shelves more accesible. I hope to replace the missing glass from the drawers which will bring back the transparent compartments to their intended use (see pictures below) and  I am on the lookout for matching drawer knobs. In leu of antique candy jars, I found some vintage looking ones and filled them with office supplies. They now sit in the jar niches.

Closeup of a drawer missing glass & knob.
(Click to enlarge)

One remaining glassed drawer
with original knob. (Click to enlarge).

Closeup of the knob

Vintage style candy jars in niche.
(Click to enlarge)

When we purchased this Tienda, I had yet to discover my passion for family history. I knew that my great-grandparents owned a grocery store, but I spent little time pondering what the store may have looked like in the early 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. I never made a connection between this old Mexican grocery store display and my ancestors grocery store. But, as I was writing this post and contemplated the Tienda, I recalled a photo I came across recently. This amazing snapshot, printed as a postcard, is one of the few surviving photos the Bloomfield Market. In this unlabeled photo, taken around 1920, I am able to identify my great-grandfather, William Bloomfield who is standing behind the counter. To my amazement, behind him is what looks like a very large set of shelves, neatly stacked with rows of boxes, bottles and canned goods. It's difficult to tell from the photo, but it's quite possible that the vertical dividers are columns, just like the Mexican Tienda. Far away from Puebla Mexico, this vintage family photo, provides a glimpse of what the Mexican tienda would have looked like in its heyday. I am not sure what became of the New Hampshire tienda, but Minnie provides a small clue in her Memoir, Stored Treasures:
"We bought a grocery store from a friend of Will's (William Bloomfield). It was some ten miles from where his mother's store was located. She had some fixtures that she loaned us. So without any money, or experience, we were in business." (Stored Treasures, 137)
William Bloomfield, at the Bloomfield Market
Laconia, NH c1920
(Click to enlarge)
It's very likely that the loan included the fixtures in this picture and my guess is that they were returned to Freida Toby when William and Minnie moved to Houston. I don't believe any furniture from that period remains in the family. Though I'm not a big believer in destiny, I feel as if the Mexican tienda which now proudly sits in my office,  had a purpose in fighting it's way back into my home.

As of now, my children do not have much of an appreciation for our eclectic taste in rustic furniture. Hopefully, one of our sons will one day want to inherit this beautiful tienda. Thanks to this blog post, the bookcase, will come with a story!


  1. Smadar, what a wonderful and happy ending! I think you need to take a picture of you and Lincoln by La Tienda, as part of its rich provenance, maybe even holding a photo of Don Miguel, if you have one.

    It does seem as though it was meant for you, especially given the history of your family's Bloomfield Market. I wonder if your great grandparents were somehow behind this?

    1. What a great idea! I'll have to ask Lincoln for a picture. He might think I'm a little strange! I don't have a picture of Don Miguel but I should. He has been part of our lives for 15 years and has bailed us out of many house disasters!

  2. What a wonderful ending to your story! La Tienda looks great in your office.

  3. Great ending & I can't wait to see it in your office! I love the post card photo as well of the Bloomfield Market.

    1. Thanks! I'm excited to show it off this weekend!

  4. Smadar,

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!

  5. That's a great story! I think everyone has some moving horror story - yours has a nice happy ending :)

    1. May we all have only happy moving stories, or at least find a way to laugh about them when we look back!

  6. It looks perfectly majestic! Even the glassed drawer for rubber bands, a neat idea. It looks even better than Bloomfield's shelves in his market. Is that lighting installed along the top panel? There is a kind of glow cast down onto the books. I think this elegant piece of furniture has found its home at last. Destiny.

    1. Thanks, Mariann. I don't know if it looks better than the Bloomfield's furniture. I think the Rustic look, gives it more character. I bet the Bloomfield shelves, are pretty rustic right now, if they survived the past 90 years since that photo was taken!
      The lighting is installed along the top panel. I had the lights installed in Mexico and I do love the glow they cast.


Thanks for sharing your comments!