Rangely Development Agency talks to grocery chain owner

RANGELY | The Rangely Development Agency (RDA), met last Thursday and discussed the current state of grocery availability in Rangely and the potential improvements they envision.
Mayor Joseph Nielsen gave a quick current status update. According to Nielsen, Darren Hill, owner of White River Market, intends to leave the Rangely grocery business, although that has not happened at this time. Nielsen believes that without a market the town will “probably die” and therefore it’s important to pursue the Better City project and alternative grocery options.
Tom Clark, president of Clark’s Market, has expressed interest in getting into the Rangely market. Clark was on hand to talk about his potential strategy. He provided a brief introduction explaining that Clark’s Market is a family business, owning several grocery stores in Colorado and Utah. They have been in business since 1978 and currently have more than 400 employees. “Rangely’s always been on our radar. We do well in small towns,” said Clark. Clark said he has been speaking with Town Manager Peter Brixius for several years and is familiar with Rangely’s grocery situation. “Your town is a unique situation,” he said. Clark responded to questions and comments from the group regarding their current stores and thoughts on Rangely. True Value owner Rodger Polley mentioned concerns about competitive pricing and selection depth, adding, “Right now would be the time to get a good grocery store going here.” Clark responded saying, “We’re not going to be Sam’s Club or Walmart. A small independent grocery store could never be close. We like to price at 5-10 percent more than those stores.” One concern mentioned by Clark is that people’s habits have been changed to accept traveling more than an hour for groceries. However, with enough community engagement and value he believes that trend could be shifted. He also stated that providing a minimum of two trucks providing groceries per week to a store would be a vast improvement.
Clark regularly compared Rangely to Blanding, Utah, where they also own a grocery store with an attached bowling alley. He said this is something he has explored with the Better City representatives for Rangely.
Brad Casto, RDA pesident and owner of Rangely NAPA, expressed support for getting a new grocery store to help prevent leakage of money from town, which he said hurts every business on Main Street.
Casto suggested the RDA and town consider purchasing the current White River Market building and leasing the space to Clark’s. According to Brixius the building is estimated to be worth $2.5 million, however Clark believes the value should be closer to $600,000.
Brixius briefly mentioned tax incremental financing as another way to incentivize new business with a reduced tax burden.
The grocery survey was also part of the conversation. The survey, which was available online and mailed out to Rangely residents before the holidays, returned 148 responses. The most notable result of the survey was the clear indication of just how much grocery money is spent out of town. According to the survey results the average Rangely family spends between $76-125 weekly on groceries. However, only 9.7 percent of respondents said they spend most of their money at the local grocery store.
The survey was also intended to gauge interest in an alternative local grocery store, such as Clark’s. Along that line, respondents determined quality/freshness of products, selection/variety and prices as the most important factors when determining where to shop. A common theme in the comments provided by survey takers was a desire to see more selection and affordable prices at the local grocery store. Produce and meat options were specifically singled out as items of interest.
John Payne, owner of Giovanni’s, commented that a big take away from the survey was the indication that the town has trust issues with the current grocery store, something that any new venue will have to overcome.
Clark commented on the survey and concerns he had from the results. “The average shopper shops twice a week. The people here are only shopping once every two weeks,” he said.
In addition, the survey asked about desires for potential entertainment offerings. The top two choices were a movie theater and bowling alley. Sixty-four percent of respondents said they would stay in town more often if a social venue was available. Brixius stated that Better City had informed him that a single show theater was estimated to cost $1 million. To move forward Brixius says Better City should continue to be utilized for negotiations and acquiring property.
The RDA will meet again on Feb. 9 at 7:30 a.m.