Alna Store Changes Hands, Role as Community Center to Remain

February 28, 2017

Abigail W. Adams, The Lincoln County News

Amy and Mike Preston’s ownership of the Alna Store ended on Monday, Feb. 27. In a sale that has been in development for over a year, the Prestons officially transferred ownership of the store to Ken and Jane Solorzano, of Alna, the next day.

After a short closure for cosmetic and energy-efficiency improvements and for reorganization of the kitchen, the Solorzanos said they expect to reopen on Monday, March 6 as the Alna General Store with an expanded menu and grocery options, and with the possible addition of Suneay hours for brunch.

Amy and Mike Preston bought The Alna Store soon after moving to town, Amy Preston said. She received a phone call from Mike with the idea to buy it while she was driving in Boston, doing her previous job as a sales rep, she said.

The couple had a five-year plan when they took over, and intended to sell the store at the end of the five years. They would go on to operate the store for over a decade, with Amy Preston manning the counter and overseeing daily operations six days a week.

“The joke became the store was Mike’s midlife crisis that I inherited,” Amy Preston said. Throughout the Prestons’ tenure, The Alna Store cemented its role as a community gathering place and outreach center, and the staff and customers became a family, several staff members and regulars said.

Owning a country store was not something that had been on the Solorzanos’ radar, they said. They decided to buy the store after being encouraged to do so by several members of the community, Jane Solorzano said.

Ken’s cooking, which has a strong influence from his Spanish heritage and his upbringing in San Diego, has a reputation, and is in high demand, Jane Solorzano said. Ken recently retired from the military, and with both children grown, the Solorzanos decided to dive in and buy the store.

The couple will add a new countertop and shelves to the store, and plan to install heat pumps, solar panels, and a generator, they said. The traditional menu will stay the same, but the kitchen will be remodeled to allow additional Spanish-themed menu options, such as tacos, enchiladas, and rice and beans, among others.

The couple also hopes to add prepared dinners and pre-marinated meats to the store’s offerings, they said. They also plan to expand grocery options, so Alna residents don’t have to travel so far for staples, Jane Solorzano said.

The Solorzanos will try to keep their food offerings as locally sourced as possible, they said.

While there will be several new additions to the store, and cosmetically it will look different, the store’s role as a community gathering place will remain the same, Ken Solorzano said.

“We love Mike and Amy,” he said. “We want to continue what they started and build on their achievements.”

The store will also continue to serve as a tagging station for hunters and will issue fishing licenses, Ken Solorzano said.

Jane Solorzano said she would like to continue Amy’s work to deliver meals to elderly residents, and hopes to draw in young volunteers to expand the effort.

The store “is a place where community comes together. It’s almost like a meeting house,” Ken Solorzano said.

The Prestons put the store up for sale so they would have the time to do other things while “we still have our health and our wits,” Amy Preston said.

“This is a really exciting time for both (the Prestons and) us,” Ken Solorzano said.