People driving down the Mission Trail may notice new stores, cafés, restaurants, breweries, wine bars and art galleries – many of them in the Socorro area where a hub of businesses are attracting visitors and new revenue to the farm region.
The new local businesses – including Café Piro, Bodega Loya, Wine Down, CoCol, Three Missions Brewery, Moonlight Adobe Hall and The Dusty Tap – are within the area identified in the county’s Mission Valley Comprehensive Master Plan.
Adopted by El Paso County’s Economic Development Department in 2019, the plan focuses on economic and tourism development, climate resilience and the UNESCO World Heritage site designation – an area of cultural importance that’s to be protected and preserved. Some of the ideas include creating complete centers around each mission and protecting and enhancing historic assets and agricultural landscapes. Others are to add destinations, events and trails, and to improve streets to connect roadways around and leading to the Mission Valley. The plan also includes identifying funding sources for the projects.
The Mission Valley master plan includes the Mission Trail – a 9-mile corridor in the southeast region of El Paso County named after the three historic missions that date back to the 17th- and 18th- centuries. The Ysleta Mission, Socorro Mission and the Presidio Chapel of San Elizario are the oldest churches in Texas. The trail runs along Socorro Road – where the majority of the new businesses are located – and is the main access artery between the communities.
“The Mission Trail has been a priority for the county for many years,” said Iliana Holguin, El Paso County Commissioner for Precinct 3. “Several years ago, we developed a Mission Trail master plan with how we wanted to see that area developed, with a specific focus on what we can do to help the businesses in that area.”
Many of the businesses in the area are interconnected through familial ties: The owners of Cafe Piro and The Dusty Tap are brother and sister, and their uncle owns Bodega Loya. The business owners said everyone in Socorro supports one another, so when one of them succeeds, they all do. Their main goal is to improve the small town and to help it grow.
A café and restaurant, Café Piro was recently opened by Gabe and Mel Padilla. The couple’s original business was a food truck called Casa del Humo. After a couple of years, the Padillas looked for a brick-and-mortar location and created a café named after Gabe’s ancestors, the Piro Tribe who established villages in Socorro.
“My husband’s from here and I have family here, too, so it felt good to stay close to home and to keep Socorro in Socorro,” Mel said. “We didn’t want any corporate places jumping in. We’re proud that we can keep Socorro local because it keeps it authentic and more human.”
The couple built and created everything themselves; and they smoke a lot of their food on live fire as their ancestors did. Their menu includes mole, tofu scramble, pan dulce, ceviche and more, depending on the ingredients and produce they have available at any given time.
The Padilla’s said their main goal is to make healthy food accessible to the people around them. They also showcase work by artists from Socorro and across the borderland, and use produce from local vendors like Bodega Loya, Sun City Roots and Full Circle Mushrooms.
“We like to say, ‘está en su casa,’” Gabe said. “Please come and visit the Mission Trail – not just us, but everyone, especially all of these new businesses. They need the support and everyone has put a lot of love and effort into making this area into a destination.”
The Dusty Tap, a patio bar and grill, opened its doors in May 2022 by owners Celina and Mike Carrillo. Celina lives in Austin but is originally from Socorro. She and her husband were inspired to create a family-friendly outdoor venue in Socorro like the ones found in Austin. It took them 10 months to renovate the site, which now includes a stage where local musicians perform and an array of lawn games such as cornhole.
“My ancestors are originally from this area and all of my existing family is still here,” said Celina when asked why she chose to build her business in the Mission Trail. “They all live within one mile of each other and from the Mission Trail. We spend a lot of time here, So when we found this property, it was kind of a no-brainer.”
Celina says that for the longest time, whenever someone would talk about Socorro, they would envision dirt roads and farmland. But today there is a lot of development and new businesses opening up. People who have grown up in Socorro are now reinvesting in the area and paying tribute to some of the sights within the community, said Celina.
“Hopefully the area continues in economic growth and financial support in the form of grants and incentives from the county and Socorro,” Celina said when asked where she sees Socorro in 10 years. “Also hopefully locals continue to find an interest in investing in their communities, and hopefully in 10 years, small businesses are still here supporting each other.”
Housed in an refurbished adobe building built in 1958, Three Missions Brewery is a microbrewery opened in March 2021 by Rick Razo. All beer is brewed in-house, including churro stout, pomegranate ale, pecan brown and a variety of IPAs, or India Pale Ales known for their hoppy flavor. The brewery was the first new business in the historic area.
“Our vision was to have a place where we could make handcrafted beer and have a business that had to do with the history of the area,” Razo said. “A lot of my beers are influenced by local fruit. If you want to experience the true taste of this area, this is the place to be.”
“I see Soccoro on the map,” Razo said. “ I think a lot of these businesses and new businesses will attract a lot of people and create a tourist economy. It will get people to know the culture of our area and expose our gastronomy to the rest of this nation and the world.”
To help get people to the growing area, Visit El Paso in partnership with El Paso County offers free bus tours of the Mission Valley every first Friday of the month. The tour starts and ends at the Judson F. Williams Convention Center and stops at several local attractions and new businesses in Socorro, San Elizario and Ysleta.
“There are more than 350 years of our history in that area,” Holguin said. “I think a lot of businesses have chosen to locate along the Mission Trail because they get to bring all of these new fresh ideas to a place that is 350-years-old into buildings that are hundreds of years old that have now been restored.”
Mission Trail: Socorro Business Growth
Several new eateries, entertainment venues and other businesses have opened along Socorro Road recently. Here’s a few of them:
Farm, fruit and vegetable store
10257 Socorro Road
Café and restaurant
9993 Socorro Road
(915) 400- 7470
Coffee shop, food, art and music
10180 Socorro Road
The Dusty Tap
Patio bar and grill
10297 Socorro Road
Three Missions Brewery
10179 Socorro Road
10245 Socorro Road