ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Along Fourth Street in northwest Albuquerque there sits what appears to be a normal antique store. However, a shop hidden in the back of that antique store has piqued the interest of state investigators.
KRQE News 13 received a tip that the men running Recuerdos Antiques, Estevan Apodaca and his husband, Edwin Abeyta, were also running an unlicensed beauty salon in the back.
While running a salon may seem harmless, according to records with the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department, as recent as July 14, Apodaca didn’t have a license to do so.
The state claims that’s a problem.
“It’s important to get a cosmetology license or any license we oversee because there are rules out there,” explained Alex Sanchez, Deputy Superintendent for the state Regulation and Licensing Department.
“There’s rules for sanitation, there’s rules for making sure you’re up on the latest procedures and how to handle things, even getting your tax ID or being a legitimate business,” Sanchez added.
KRQE News 13 obtained video from a New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department (RLD) state board inspector on a surprise visit to Recuerdos Antiques last month. According to a complaint filed by the inspector, he witnessed Apodaca cutting a woman’s hair behind a cloth partition in the back of the antique shop.
In the video the inspector identified himself to the two men running the shop as a Barber and Cosmetology State Board Inspector, and took a look around.
“Do you have your licenses?” the inspector asked. Apodaca pointed to his cosmetology license hanging on the wall and wants to know how the inspector found out about his shop. “I haven’t even applied for my — to move, I just moved here,” Apodaca told the inspector.
The inspector found Apodaca was violating state law. He noted Apodaca’s old cosmetology license was hanging on the wall, but a folded $10 was blocking customers’ view of the license’s January expiration date.
“I’ve been doing this a long time,” Apodaca told the inspector and continues doing someone’s hair throughout the twenty-minute inspection.
“So are you doing any permanent makeup because I noticed you had some of the needles there?” the inspector asked Apodaca.
“No, it’s just my product from when I used to do it,” Apodaca replied.
According to state RLD records, Apodaca doesn’t have a license to do permanent makeup, either. He told the inspector he’s had trouble getting one.
“State Board has really jerked me around with my license,” said Apodaca.
The state inspector also found Apodaca’s salon is not a licensed establishment, and doesn’t have signs posted on the shop indicating what type of business is run there.
“Have you entered your establishment license?” the inspector asked.
“No, that’s what I need to do,” Apodaca replied. But even with that admission, Apodaca and Abeyta seem to suggest there are lots of people who don’t follow the rules.
“There’s tons of people that do it, that do nails without license, they don’t even have an establishment license,” Apodaca told the inspector.
“Well, we do go after the shops as well that are unlicensed,” the inspector replied.
“No, you don’t,” Abeyta argued.
Deputy Superintendent Sanchez told KRQE News 13 there should be no excuse for someone running a business in New Mexico to not have a valid state license for his or her business.
“I mean either the issue is you just don’t want to come get licensed, which makes me wonder why, and number two, we’re sending out reminders of when people’s licenses are due so we try and help them in that way,” Sanchez explained.
The owners of the salon are no strangers to KRQE News 13 cameras, and it’s not the first time they’ve been in trouble with the state.
Owner Troubles in 2015
Apodaca and Abeyta were the center of a 2015 Larry Barker investigation. At the time, the couple ran Elan Academy, an accredited beauty school on Eubank.
Larry Barker’s investigation found the school doctored educational credentials for at least 16 students, claiming they completed more hours of coursework than was physically possible in the time those students were enrolled.
At this point, the old beauty school on Eubank sits empty, and the couple is once again in hot water.
“The establishment license is expired, and also his license is expired as well,” the inspector told Abeyta after his June inspection.
KRQE News 13 wanted to hear directly from the men running Recuerdos Antiques.
“We don’t wanna talk about that right now,” Abeyta said, referring to the complaint about a suspected unlicensed salon inside. “It’s not illegal,” he added, before closing the shop’s door and blinds.
The state disagrees, saying operating an unlicensed business is illegal, but Abeyta wasn’t interested in explaining.
According to RLD online records, after KRQE News 13 talked to Abeyta, Apodaca did renew his cosmetology license on July 18. He’ll be given due process with the State Barber and Cosmetologists Board.
As of Wednesday, the salon itself is still an unlicensed establishment, according to RLD.
“We want New Mexico to be business friendly, we want people to go out and use local barbers and cosmetologists, we just want them to make sure they’re using a licensed barber or cosmetologist,” said Sanchez.
The complaint against Apodaca for violating licensing laws will still go before a committee under the state Regulation and Licensing Department. Apodaca could face sanctions or possibly loss of license.