Death of a sales place
When Denny Swanson opened Glenwood True Value Hardware on Grand Avenue in 1986, he never thought it would be forced out of business if the store were successful. But he and his staff became resigned to that fact when they strung up “going out of business” banners on Tuesday, signifying an end of an era for the hardware business in Glenwood Springs. By January, Swanson’s business, which has roots dating back to 1847 in Illinois, will be left with only its Steamboat Springs store. “I assumed (Glenwood True Value) was probably good for another 20 years in that location,” Swanson said. Swanson received documents filed in District Court early this month notifying him that Roaring Fork School District Re-1 plans to have the True Value property condemned to make way for an expansion for Glenwood Springs High School. At the time, Swanson had been fighting against such condemnation since voters approved a property tax increase to raise $86 million for school facilities construction throughout Re-1. The board soon approved expanding the high school onto property surrounding the present campus, including the land and buildings Swanson and Glenwood Gymnastics Academy owner Rob Jones lease. Swanson said Re-1 officials haven’t done enough to help him relocate and they’ve only informed him through Post Independent news stories that they plan to raze the buildings after Jan. 1. Re-1 Superintendent Fred Wall did not immediately return an e-mail seeking comment.
With no place else to move his business, Swanson’s staff began a going-out-of-business sale on Tuesday with no specific plan for when the store will close its doors permanently. It has Swanson so upset, he’s considering taking legal action against Re-1. “We feel we’re being forced out of business,” he said, adding that he doesn’t yet know what legal recourse he can take. “It’s pretty unbelievable such a successful business could end up being dealt a hand like that. I’m really kind of at a loss for words.”School board member Susan Hakanson said earlier this month that she “feels” for Swanson and Jones, but because Swanson is a tenant of a tenant – Swanson rents from Safeway, which rents from the George W. and Loretto Sumers family – there’s no guarantee the property will be always available to True Value. Whatever the circumstances, True Value’s demise is still painful for its approximately 25 employees, many of whom don’t have another job nailed down for after the store closes. When fully staffed, the store employed 40 people.”We’ve lost a lot of employees,” general manager Scott Schlapkohl said. “All the full-time staff has stayed. I’ve talked to several of them and some of them have some real good feelers out, but from what I know, I don’t think anybody has anything specific lined up.”Employee Diana “Tink” Nye said she’s leaving Glenwood for Portland, Ore., in the spring.
“I wish people would have read more on the issue and (the school board) would have made it clearer to the voters what was going on, because everybody’s naive and they wouldn’t have voted for it if they had known this place was closing,” Nye said. “It stinks for the employees that will be losing their jobs.”Employee Karen Ray said she’s going to miss her “extended family” of fellow True Value workers when the store closes, and the store’s demise means one less family-owned business in town. “These are negative things,” she said. “I don’t want to say completely negative things because change can be good, too.”The end of True Value could open new possibilities for the town, she said, “but I think that the school board could have chosen another option, and I think that improving education starts within instead of improving the facade of the facility.”For Ray, losing her job means more education. “I’m probably going to work part time and go back to school part time,” she said. Glenwood True Value is closing right on the heels of the grand opening of Lowe’s in Glenwood Meadows, one of True Value’s biggest competitors nationwide. Swanson said that there’s no link between him being unable to find another location or True Value’s closing and the big box store’s opening. In fact, said True Value manager, Tom Maher, he expected business to take a hit when Lowe’s opened, but the hit wasn’t nearly as severe as he expected. On Thursday morning, True Value’s parking lot was nearly full as customers took advantage of the store’s closing sale.
Glenwood True Value is part of a business with a legacy spanning more than 150 years. Swanson’s family, which bought it in 1946, is the fifth owner of the business that once included two stores in the Chicago area. Swanson and his brother sold the Chicago stores and opened a store in Steamboat Springs in the 1960s, followed 20 years later with the opening of the Glenwood store. Soon, only the Steamboat Springs store will remain. He said his Glenwood employees are strong and “they’ll do fine,” but shuttering a successful business wasn’t part of Swanson’s plans. “It’s kind of like a death in the family,” he said. Contact Bobby Magill: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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