ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Old Town in Albuquerque has had some big changes recently. With long-time stores and restaurants closing down, a new generation of businesses is popping up.

Old Town has long catered to tourists more than locals. However, could it be transitioning away from that tradition? “I have not seen this many vacancies in years and I’ve been here for 30 years,” said the owner of Church Street Café, Marie Coleman.

Coleman says her business is still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. Other restaurants in Old Town weren’t so lucky; the historic La Placita restaurant closed its doors during the pandemic with new owners now using the space as a café.

Backstreet Grill’s building is now being used as a store and café. As other storefronts sit empty the question is, what kinds of businesses will move in? Old Town has traditionally attracted tourists, but some of the newer businesses in Old Town are bringing more locals to the area.

“Most come down here for buying their tourist items, bringing their family when they’re in town…I’ve had locals come in and say ‘Oh I haven’t been here in five years.’ We’re like, ‘We’re so glad you’re here,'” said the manager at Noisy Water Winery, Patricia Silva.

Noisy Water Winery is one business that tries to get more New Mexicans to check out what they offer. They say, although there are vacant businesses, they believe the places that are popping up are breathing new life into the area. “There’s a couple things that are pretty empty. I do see a couple restaurants coming in now though which is pretty nice. Vacancies, but more people showing up. Local restaurants coming in to play,” said Silva.

But for tourists, Old Town’s shifting character might take some getting used to. “We’re looking for some real authentic stuff and it’s kind of hard to pick out here what’s really authentic and what’s the kind of newer, trendier, tackier stuff going on,” said Matt, a tourist from Dallas.

The New Mexico Restaurant Association told KRQE News 13 earlier this month, that high prices and supply chain issues are still plaguing restaurants. However, they are starting to see more job applicants.