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Wait for mall reopening makes business tough

Dennis WebbGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson
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GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. Phil Gallagher is a single guy with no family, but for much of the last year he’s felt like a parent who lost a child. His Gallagher’s Optical was one of several businesses affected when a fire struck the Grand Avenue Mall in downtown Glenwood Springs last March 19. Thanks to ongoing insurance negotiations stemming from the high cost of local construction, the wait continues for some businesses hoping to move back in.Gallagher is starting to think the wait has lasted too long for his store to ever reopen, and he’s lamenting that possible loss.”Owning a business 27 years is kind of like living with a kid,” Gallagher said.Noting his own lack of a family, he added, “I had my store; that was my baby.””Sometimes I go down there and just look at the wall, you know what I mean? I work for a few hours and sit down and look at the walls,” Gallagher said, his voice trailing off.Gus Lundin, the building’s manager, sympathizes with Gallagher and other business owners affected by the fire, and shares their frustration over the delays in getting the building reopened.

“That’s been my primary concern all along, is being able to return the tenants to the building as quickly as possible. We’re still trying to accomplish that,” he said.A step in that direction occurred last year when asbestos that was exposed and released by the fire was cleaned up. Demolition work on the interior also has been finished. However, now Lundin is negotiating with his insurer over the cost of reconstructing the interior. The problem is that construction is more expensive in the Glenwood Springs area than what insurers are used to paying in the Denver area.”We’re still trying to negotiate down to an amount that both us, we and our insurer, think is a reasonable sum to do all this work. We’re slowly making progress but we’re still too far apart on our numbers to begin construction yet. It’s an excruciatingly slow process going back and forth,” Lundin said. “… I think I know more about commercial insurance policies than I ever wanted to know at this point.”He said the problem is being exacerbated by the fact that he’s now hoping to have the work done more quickly once it’s started, which only will add to the price.Not only does Lundin want the businesses to be able to reopen as soon as possible, but he is worried because many loss-of-business insurance policies provide only a year’s worth of coverage.Becky Spagnolo, who with her husband Corey ran Spagnolo’s Restaurant & Pizza in the building, said she thinks her insurance will run out after about a year. She and her husband have been working other jobs to supplement their income in the meantime. Becky bought a gift basket business and also is managing a gift store at the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association building.The Spagnolos continue to hope they can reopen at the Grand Avenue Mall, their home for eight and a half years. They don’t think there are many other viable places to operate downtown, and don’t want to move.

“We’re planning on hanging in there and I think that’s our best bet,” Becky Spagnolo said.But she, and Gallagher, are upset by the insurance delays hindering reconstruction.”The waiting has just been horrible. The stress is unbelievable,” she said.Gallagher had thought he’d be back in business within three or four months at the most. Now, he said, he fears that his business literally has gone up in smoke.”I’ve lost so many customers now, it’s kind of like if you go to another dentist, you don’t go back to the old dentist,” he said.He said it’s hard to come up with the upfront money needed to rent another location downtown.The fire caused a tattoo shop to move elsewhere downtown and a Teddy bear shop to close permanently. It closed the retail business for Dragon’s Lair, which continues to operate over the Internet.

Lundin said it’s still uncertain when construction could start. It could be as soon as a few weeks, or much longer, he said.Said Spagnolo, “We’re just praying that they start construction in January, and if they do that we should be OK.”Lundin expects the total cost of the project will be more than $1 million.Contact Dennis Webb: 384-9119dwebb@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO


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