Commerce picks up in Fruita

For years, Fruita has battled the idea that it’s largely a bedroom community of Grand Junction. That it’s a great place to live and raise a family, but when it comes to working and shopping, the only option is to pack up the kids and head east on Interstate 70 or U.S. Highway 6&50.

A spate of nearly finished or planned construction projects in the city is providing perhaps the strongest challenge to that notion to date.

Signs that business and commercial real estate activity is picking up after a long period of dormancy in the Grand Valley may be most evident in Fruita, where four businesses are on the verge of opening or formulating building plans.

Discount retailer Dollar General and Pizza Hut are slated to open in the coming weeks, while True Value Hardware has filed a site plan with the city and AutoZone has purchased property west of downtown. The new construction will add dozens of jobs to the marketplace and boost what is already a solid start to the year in terms of city sales-tax revenue. And coupled with the openings earlier this year of Suds Bros. Brewery and beer- and wine-making supplier Kettle’s Home Brew downtown, along with the reopening of Pablo’s Pizza, it will strengthen the city’s retail sector.

“I think what it’s showing is Fruita has proven its marketability,” City Manager Clint Kinney said. “There is truly a market here where private businesses can locate. It’s always been a situation where people are driving to Grand Junction, but now people think they can actually locate their businesses here.”

After pulling out of Palisade, Dollar General turned its focus to Fruita and erected a 9,000-square-foot store north of Fruita Monument High School. Emily Weiss, spokeswoman for the Goodlettsville, Tenn.-based company, said Dollar General looks at a number of factors when considering new locations, including the area’s demographic trends, customer needs, competition and traffic patterns. “Fruita was a great match for us,” Weiss said. “We believe we can deliver a convenient shopping choice to the community.”

She said stores typically employ six to 10 part-time and full-time workers.

This will be the first Dollar General in the Grand Valley. Another is in the works in Clifton.

Just to the south and directly across 18 Road from the high school, construction workers are busy transforming the old Go-Fer Foods gas station and convenience store into a 2,400-square-foot Pizza Hut.

When officials with High Plains Pizza, a Liberal, Kan.-based franchisee group that owns Pizza Hut restaurants in Grand Junction, Clifton, Delta and Moab, Utah, came to look at potential Fruita locations, one of the first things they noticed was the teenagers lined up outside the Maverik Country Store that opened in front of the school in 2010, according to Luke Jennings, facilities manager for High Plains Pizza.

The proximity to the school, along with the ability to draw in U.S. 6&50 traffic, made it the perfect location, Jennings said. In addition, the Fruita store will be the first High Plains Pizza franchise to have a drive-through.

Pizza Hut will hire between 30 and 40 employees, Jennings said.

Motorists who head west on U.S. 6&50 from Pizza Hut should eventually find a True Value Hardware. The hardware store will return to Fruita after closing its previous location in 2007, according to Cathy Frederick, whose family owns the Peach Tree True Value on North Avenue. The old Fruita True Value location, 158 S. Park Square, is now occupied by the Fruita Health Club.

The City Council earlier this month agreed to sell to True Value for $150,000 a 70,000-square-foot parcel of land along the highway next to Little Salt Wash. A draft site plan filed with the city calls for a 16,560-square-foot building.

Frederick declined to comment further about the new store, saying she wanted to wait until after the sale of the property closes next month.

Officials with the fourth new business, AutoZone, have been calling the city’s Community Development Department and sending preliminary proposals, Community Development Director Dahna Raugh said. The company has acquired a series of lots on the north side of Aspen Avenue between Coulson and Willow streets, she said.

“These are companies that operate all over the U.S., and I’m sure that they are seeing something in the market to open up their businesses in Fruita,” Raugh said.

The businesses will add to the city’s rebounding sales-tax base. The city collected nearly $320,000 in receipts in the first quarter, a 12 percent increase over the same time last year.


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