The bloom is apparently off Columbine Market; future not flowery |

The bloom is apparently off Columbine Market; future not flowery

Dale Shrull

It looks like Columbine Market in Rifle will be closing its doors in the near future.

According to several Columbine Market employees, who did not want to be identified, the store will close sometime in December, and they will be out of a job.

“We were all called into a meeting,” a longtime employee said outside the store last week. “That’s when they told us the store would be closing.”

Last week, Columbine Market President Howard Tuthill declined to comment on the possible closing of the store. This week he had this to say: “Our position is the same as last week – we have no comment. We are working through negotiations. All these issues are hindering where we’re trying to go. When we get to that point, we will let you know what we’re doing.”

Tuthill also operates the Columbine Market store in Gypsum. The Rifle store has been open for more than three years.

The rumor mill has been running full force since last week, when news of the store’s impending closure first hit the streets. This could be the first repercussion of the recent announcement that Wal-Mart has officially committed to building a superstore in South Rifle.

Another employee, also outside the store, said that they were told two companies are looking at the location. She identified the companies as Kroger, which owns City Market, and Safeway.

Safeway spokesperson Jeff Stroh declined to say if the company was looking at Rifle.

“It’s our policy that we don’t discuss real estate projects until we have made a decision,” he said from his Denver office.

“We look at a lot of our markets and we’re still very much interested in the Western Slope,” he added.

Safeway is currently building a new store in Grand Junction.

According to Garfield County Assessor Shannon Hurst, the property owned by Columbine Market LLC at 1633 Railroad Ave. is situated on 4.27 acres, with a total appraised value of close to $1.7 million. That includes both real and personal property. The assessor’s office lists the total size of the Columbine Market building at 29,909 square feet, with 7,260 square feet of that occupied by the Tim’s Tools business. Another 4,500 square feet is warehouse space and 1,200 square feet is listed as unfinished utilities.

Whatever happens with the Columbine Market property could depend on what the owner of Tim’s Tools decides.

Tim’s Tools is a sporting goods and hardware store connected to the Columbine Market building. Owner Poke Stiers referred any discussions concerning his business and property to his attorney, Steve Worrell of Worrell, Griffith, Durrett and Jaynes of Glenwood Springs.

“We are currently reviewing our options,” Worrell said last week.

A large stumbling block to any property sale could be the long-term lease Stiers has for his store.

“(Stiers) has a solid 10-year lease with two options after that is up,” Worrell said. “He doesn’t have to move, he is under no obligation to go anywhere.”

“Right now, all I’m concerned with is hunting season; it’s our biggest time of the year,” Stiers said last week.

Stiers also owns the Tim’s Tools store in Silt.

Worrell added that Stiers has been approached and inquiries have been made on his property, but the attorney did not elaborate. He did say that the interested parties have asked Stiers to respond within a few weeks. If Stiers elects to not sell and forgo his lease, the lease would be transferred with any real estate transaction, according to Worrell.

“So right now, we’re just reviewing our options,” Worrell reiterated.

Another possible wrench in any future plans concerning the Tim’s Tools location involves the recent past. Approximately 15 months ago, an expansion of the Rifle City Market store on Railroad Avenue was planned. At that time Tim’s Tools and Rocky Mountain Liquors occupied the space connected to City Market. Since, at that time, the expansion was a foregone conclusion, City Market didn’t renew the leases of Tim’s Tools and the liquor store.

Both businesses subsequently moved to the Columbine Market property, with Rocky Mountain Liquors located in a 3,000-square-foot building in the lower parking area. The liquor store and its owner also have a long-term lease on that property.

The City Market expansion was put on hold in March when it was discovered that some of the property involved in the proposed expansion was owned by other people.

With rumors of two companies looking at the property, City Market may be looking to move across Railroad Avenue into the Columbine Market building once and if it’s vacated. The other possibility is that City Market will consider resolving its current real estate situation and again look at expansion of its current property.

A Kroger representative also declined to discuss any possible real estate ventures or expansion plans for the Rifle City Market.

When the 49,000-square-foot expansion was planned for City Market, the person heading the project told Rifle City Council in March that the “existing store is at the end of its life.”

Since the Columbine Market building is just under 30,000 square feet, it’s nearly 20,000 square feet smaller than the initial expansion plans City Market first purposed.

Columbine Market employees said they were very sad when they got the news about the store’s planned closure.

“We all feel sad because we are like a family and really support one another,” said another employee, who also asked to remain anonymous. “It’s just a really sad and confusing time.”

All the employees complimented Tuthill and other members of the management staff, saying that Columbine Market is a great place to work.

Last week, another Rifle business, Rifle Shots Photo Lab, announced that it would close at the end of October. Owner Shawn “Doc” Murdoch did not blame Wal-Mart’s plans for his decision to close, saying he was not able to make his business profitable for the past two years.

Heidi Rice and James Blatter contributed to this report.

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