Battlement Mesa grocer closure stuns residents
New store to replace City Market by Aug. 1
By MIKE WIGGINS
The only supermarket in the Parachute and Battlement Mesa area will close this weekend, putting 54 City Market employees out of work and frustrating customers who fear they’ll either have to pay higher prices at the new store moving in or drive 20 miles to the next-closest grocer.
But a representative for Battlement Mesa Company, the developer of the unincorporated community of 5,000 residents, said Tuesday the new store should open by Aug. 1 and insisted it will provide the same level of services as City Market.
The sudden change rattled this community that contains a mixture of gas workers and retirees, many of whom had formed friendships with employees at one of the oldest businesses in Battlement Mesa. City Market has operated a store there for 25 years.
Officials with Battlement Mesa Company and City Market said they were unable to come to terms on a new lease agreement but declined to talk about the reasons why.
City Market spokeswoman Kelli McGannon said the grocer “received very late notice” that its lease would not be renewed.
“It was not our intent to leave that market area,” McGannon said.
Battlement Mesa Company President Eric Schmela said the breakdown “wasn’t for a lack of trying,” claiming the two groups had been negotiating for some time. But he was surprised to learn the store will close
Sunday, saying the lease with City Market runs through July 31.
He said Sunday’s closure “will have a very negative impact to the community” because it’s unlikely the new tenant, Clark’s Market, will be able to open immediately after City Market closes.
Jack Blankenship, who has lived in Battlement Mesa for 15 years, said he showed up Tuesday morning to shop at City Market and found some employees in tears. They had learned about the closure Monday night.
“It’s a really sad day for us because our associates have gotten to know the customers and become friends,” McGannon said. “It becomes more than your grocery store. That’s what happens in small towns.”
“After you know them for so long, you go in and yell at them, and they yell at you, and you get a friendship going,” Blankenship said.
He said some residents are worried an exotic market will move in and offer prices too rich for the older segment of the population.
Ron Galterio, a 10-year resident, said the closure will be a major detriment to the community.
“There are an awful lot of elderly people here who are unable to drive or drive long distances,” he said. “It will present some major problems for them to obtain their necessities from the grocery store.”
The next-closest store is in Rifle.
Schmela, though, said Clark’s Market will feature a pharmacy and should offer a product mix comparable to City Market. Clark’s, based in Basalt, has stores in Aspen, Basalt, Crested Butte, Norwood, Telluride and Blanding, Utah, according to its Web site.
Schmela said he and Clark’s quickly negotiated a lease. He said he has had lengthy conversations with Clark’s owner and operator Tom Clark about “appropriate pricing and selection of goods specifically tailored to our market down here.”
“I know it’s in their best interests to be competitive (in pricing),” Schmela said.
Battlement Mesa Company and City Market said their relationship isn’t ending the way they would have liked.
“We expected to continue to serve the customers of that area for the next 25 years,” McGannon said.
“We got along very well for the time we were here,” Schmela said. “The way this is ending is unfortunate, but we’re looking forward to the new store.”
McGannon said some of the 54 employees at the Battlement Mesa store are being offered jobs at other locations.
Schmela said Battlement Mesa Company and Clark’s have made a Web site and an e-mail address available to City Market employees who want to apply for a job at Clark’s.