Main Street Market in Wellington will close May 18, owner Panhandle Coop announced on March 23.
“It’s a pretty sad day,” said Susan Wiedeman, marketing director for Panhandle. “We’ve struggled to get the sales we needed to keep the store financially viable. We’ve tried everything we could to make the store work.”
Panhandle had made changes to the pricing mix, product mix and outreach to the community since it opened in February 2007, she added, but sales still fell short. Panhandle Coop President Bob Pile said in a prepared statement that “with the close proximity of Fort Collins, we have been unable to change the shopping habits of many people who shop at the bigger stores.”
King Soopers opened a Marketplace megastore on North College Avenue last June, right next to a complex anchored by Albertson’s.
“Wellington is a bedroom community, and I know a lot of folks shop on their way home from work (in Fort Collins),” said Jack Brinkhoff, a member of the town’s Board of Trustees. “We need to figure out how to get townspeople to support their local businesses.”
Wiedeman declined to disclose actual sales figures, but did say that Main Street Market paid approximately $145,000 in sales tax to the Town of Wellington in 2011. That translates into between $4.5 million and $5 million in annual sales, based on the town’s sales tax rate, which produced unsustainable losses.
Wellington collected about $415,000 in sales taxes in 2011, according to budget figures released in December. The impact to the town’s budget won’t be felt until the collected taxes are returned by the state department of revenue, usually about a two-month lag.
“We won’t make any cuts in the budget this year,” said Wellington Town Manager Larry Lorenzen. “But we may dip into our reserves more than anticipated.”
He added that although this year’s budget was conservative, because of the continuing economic downturn the town was already using reserves in some funds.
Lorenzen said he was shocked to hear Main Street Market was closing, but sounded hopeful that the Family Dollar discount store, which broke ground at Sixth and Roosevelt on March 26, will help recoup some of the lost sales tax revenue when it opens in early July.
However, the North Carolina-based chain specializes in merchandise priced about $10 or less, according to its website, and the new store will only be about 8,000 square feet in size, according to the developer, Excell Fund. For comparison, Main Street Market occupied 28,000 square feet of the 32,500-square-foot complex at Sixth and Jefferson streets, which also houses a liquor store and a branch of the Warren Federal Credit Union.
Wellington Main Street Market has 38 full-time and part-time employees. Pile said in a prepared statement that the coop will keep some of the employees on until the store closes.
“We appreciate the employees who have been extremely loyal to our company, but we just can’t justify the losses anymore to our members/stockholders,” Pile added. “We will treat the employees as fairly as possible.”
One of those employees is Wellington Mayor Travis Vieira, assistant manager of Main Street Market.
“It’s a very sad day for the community,” he said. “Main Street Market has been a pivotal component of who we are in Wellington.”
Lorenzen acknowledged that there are few primary jobs in Wellington, so it’s hard to predict what will happen to those who have been laid off.
Brinkhoff said that the issue will be discussed at the March 27 Town Board meeting, but there’s only so much the town can do.
“We can’t do without a grocery store, and I think the town should be willing to work with (Panhandle) to try to get them to stay, but we have to be very careful with taxpayer money,” he said. “I didn’t look too favorably on the federal bailout of private businesses, and it would be a hard line to draw here.”
Main Street Market has made charitable contributions to a number of local organizations, most recently stepping up to sponsor this year’s Pet Dog Show in June. Wiedeman said that through the coop’s Receipts for Cash program, Panhandle has supported the elementary and middle schools in the area as well as the Wellington senior center and the library.
Vieira said that while the Main Street building was constructed with enterprise zone funds, Panhandle Coop received no incentives from the town to open the Market. The coop leases its space from property owner ZWZ LLC.
Wiedeman said that May 18 is the target date for closing, depending on how long it takes to liquidate the product inventory.
Panhandle Coop has three other Main Street Market locations, in Scottsbluff and Kimble, Neb., and Torrington, Wyo., as well as a number of convenience stores and gas stations throughout those two states. Corporate headquarters for the 60-year-old coop, which claims 20,000 members, is in Scottsbluff.