Rhonda and Ryan Quintana
Rhonda and Ryan Quintana

RCAC Re-Emerging Loan Fund (RELieF) borrower Quintana’s Music Center in Gallup, New Mexico is a concrete example of how small rural and Indigenous businesses can survive and prosper despite COVID-19’s lingering economic impact when they receive the right assistance.

The Quintana couple’s story began in New Mexico’s heavy metal scene of the 1990s. Rhonda sang for local bands while Ryan was a guitarist who briefly owned a music store before closing it to help run his father’s Native American jewelry business. Their shared passion for music undoubtedly played a significant role in their future, but the couple had no idea of the immense impact it would have on their hometown.

When Rhonda and Ryan opened Quintana’s Music Center in 2017, RCAC provided them with the crucial support they needed to get their business off the ground. The Quintanas initially struggled to obtain financing from traditional lenders. “In the music industry, you can’t just decide one day that you’ll be a Fender dealer, for example,” Rhonda explained. “You have to buy tens of thousands in equipment up-front.” RCAC provided the Quintanas with the substantial working capital they needed to purchase inventory.

Quintana’s Music Center soon offered equipment and accessories from companies like Marshall, Orange, Fender, Jackson and others, along with music books and band instruments for students, and a growing collection of used and new vinyl records. For a while, they also carried Native American jewelry sourced from local Indigenous artisans. Aside from having a successful business, the Quintanas are committed to giving back to their community. Rhonda and Randy helped organize the Gallup Arts Crawl, a monthly street festival that attracted 3,000 people, an impressive number for a city with a population of just over 21,000. “We’ve also had events for the women’s shelter, the Humane Society, and we’ve sponsored baseball and basketball teams,” Rhonda said. “We believe very much in giving back to the community, which not only supports underprivileged people but helps the money stay in the area.”

Barely two years after their opening, COVID-19 struck Gallup like a sledgehammer. In-person classes and outdoor events were suspended while the Navajo Nation — the Quintanas’ main customer base — emerged as a major hotspot for the disease. Infection rates on the Navajo Nation rose faster than anywhere else in the country, and Indigenous communities comprised some 40 percent of cases statewide. New Mexico enacted stringent lockdown measures as Gallup’s entire local economy, which was built around tourism and heavy industry, virtually capsized.

In the wake of this perfect storm, the Quintanas reevaluated their business model and how to survive. “We had to
get really creative,” Rhonda said. “We quickly got our website up and running so that customers could make orders and do curbside pick-ups, but that wasn’t enough to keep everything going and pay our bills.”

RCAC Loan Officer Georgianne McConnell eventually offered a new loan to ensure Quintana’s Music Center’s recovery: RELieF. The RELieF program was created to help rural businesses re-enter the market after pandemic restrictions were lifted. Pandemic-impacted businesses can apply for a loan of up to $25,000, which includes business coaching, technical assistance and a strategic business evaluation tailored to their specific needs. Loans under RELieF may be partially or entirely forgiven depending on circumstances
or need.

“We would have never made it without the help of RCAC’s RELieF loan, and we’re just so thankful for that,” Rhonda said. “Working with Georgianne was like having a friend that was invested in our business and our family.”

As Gallup and the nation move toward economic recovery, RCAC continues to assist the Quintanas. The shop’s role in the community has grown to include offering affordable music lessons in new soundproof rooms and professional instrument repairs. A small event center will also be added to the shop this year to provide a venue for various community events. “RCAC is making a huge contribution to our downtown because of how we’re growing, and we keep recommending RCAC to other small businesses in Gallup,” Rhonda said.

“We were just small business owners with a dream, and RCAC made our dream possible with resources, mentorship
and faith.”