A recent story in The New Mexican by Teya Vitu on the upcoming retirement of my friend Cervantes “Buddy” Roybal after 38 years owning Coronado Paint & Decorating came as shock, but not a surprise. Another shock is that he’s 76, which is why it can’t be surprising.

I first met Buddy more than 30 years ago when he had a smaller store farther down Cerrillos Road. Back then, it was mostly paints and supplies, and mostly him waiting on customers. I was a freshly minted general contractor, and we hit it off.

Over the years, respect and friendship grew as we recognized kindred spirits giving back and volunteering for worthy causes in the town we love. Except Buddy puts us all to shame, even while growing and running a local business institution patronized by generations of general contractors and their clients.

A first impression of Buddy may not make you think uber-volunteer — he’s tough-minded and to the point, and his sometimes stern visage tells you when negotiations are over. But nobody has done more for Santa Fe than Buddy.

Vitu’s article mentioned substantial monetary contributions he and wife Irene make to arts and service nonprofits, but it is his time — a small-business owner’s most precious commodity — that most impresses. He’s been on more boards, committees, task forces and ad hoc meetings than anybody I’ve ever known.

Unlike many nonprofit board members, he’s never just a seat-warmer. He’s got clear and direct opinions and expresses them effectively. He usually prevails. Like many local businessmen of his generation, he’s probably more politically conservative than me, and though we’ve never specifically discussed it, his selfless giving of money and time would make a liberal’s heart bleed.

Over the years, I’ve often been asked for a recommendation on installers of tile or carpet or other products sold at Coronado. I invariably recommend picking out products from Coronado and then using whomever Buddy and his crew recommend. He has vetted dozens of independent installation contractors over the years who keep themselves open for calls from Coronado.

They are always licensed and insured, and Buddy stands behind their work. That is a huge comfort for both one-off homeowners and his loyal general contractors. Another relief for general contractors is the ability to send their clients in to talk to Buddy’s design professionals. They know their products, have great design aesthetics and never hard-sell a client unsure of their decisions.

Buddy also is a guy who kept up on the latest trends. A few years back, when the homebuilders bought and remodeled a building with Santa Fe Habitat for Humanity, we were looking for an attractive, durable floor for our large meeting room. Of course we went to Buddy, and he suggested a product we’d never heard of called LVP — Luxury Vinyl Plank flooring.

Now LVP is everywhere, but back then, Buddy stood alone in introducing the game-changing product to Santa Fe.

His forward thinking also led him to Teamshares, the company buying his life’s work. Self-described as a venture capital-backed tech company, the 3-year-old old firm practices what it calls “participatory capitalism.”

Coronado hits Teamshares’ sweet spot, which is acquiring 20- to 30-year-old businesses in blue-collar, recession-proof industries with long-standing and loyal employees. It embraces “doing well by doing good” and transitions its acquisitions to become 80 percent employee-owned over time.

Buddy said he’d stay on as the paid president until an appropriate successor is found. That’s classic Buddy, trying something new and innovative, but sticking around to make sure it isn’t too good to be true. Coronado Paint & Decorating will long endure, and Buddy Roybal will keep on making a difference in the town he loves.

Kim Shanahan has been a Santa Fe green builder since 1986 and a sustainability consultant since 2019. Contact him at shanafe@aol.com.

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