A couple of 5-pound sacks of flour looked plenty lonely as the only products on an entire shelf of Bella’s Market in Akron, one of three Bella’s Markets that closed the week of July 21. Bella’s Market owner Sam Mancini told Denver’s 7News that the Bella’s in Akron, Wiggins and Walden were closed temporarily due to a legal dispute with the former owner of the stores.
The Wellington store has had very few items on its shelves for several months now. Wellington Mayor Jack Brinkhoff said Mancini has promised to have the shelves completely re-stocked by Aug. 5. According to 7News, Mancini made a similar promise to re-stock his Limon store by Aug. 1.
In a recent interview with the Fort Collins daily newspaper, Mancini said he was “100 percent committed to Wellington,” but Mancini, who had promised to speak at the July 8 Wellington Board of Trustees meeting, didn’t show.
When the Bella’s agenda item came up for discussion and Mancini was nowhere in sight, the board postponed discussion, hoping he would show.
With time running out and Mancini missing, at about 9:30 p.m., Brinkhoff shared what he knew of the situation.
He explained that he believed Mancini was in Fort Morgan consulting with bankers in an attempt to avoid bankruptcy. In a conversation with Mancini, Brinkhoff learned that Mancini would consider selling the store.
“The problem is, two stores have failed in that location,” Trustee Larry Noel said. “The community failed to step up.”
Noel said the past history makes the business tough to sell.
“That’s only part of the story,” Brinkhoff added. He pointed out that Mancini owns grocery stores in several small Colorado communities and all of them appear to be struggling.
In addition to Wellington, Bella’s Markets are located in Akron, Gypsum, Haxtun, Limon, Stratton, Walden and Wiggins.
“His failure to appear speaks loud,” Trustee Travis Harless noted.
A tax waiver granted by the Larimer County Commissioners and approved by the Wellington Town Board in 2012 waived property taxes for 2013 and 2014 in exchange for Bella’s agreeing to operate the grocery for five years.
At the time, taxes were estimated at $49,000 a year, $13,000 of which would go to the town, the remainder to be split between Larimer County and Poudre School District.
County records show that the first half of 2012 real property taxes payable in 2013 ($23,414.87) for the building housing the Bella’s, were paid by First American Title Insurance Company on March 4, 2014. The second half went to tax lien sale on Nov. 11, 2013. As of July, the redemption figure is $30,041.28.
According to Larimer County Chief Deputy Treasurer Irene Josey, no decision has been made yet on what action the county will take if Mancini defaults on his agreement to stay open for five years.
When the Larimer County Commissioners agreed in a 2-1 vote to forgive property taxes for Bella’s in 2013 and 2014, Commissioner Steve Johnson dissented. Johnson said he had no current information about the state of Bella’s Market.