O&A Masthead

Colorado News —
August 2018

Columnist — Joyce Trent

ASPEN — Oh, the woes of convenience stores trying to do business in this town.

First came the bag tax they must collect. Every store whose customers request a single-use plastic bag has to charge them twenty cents extra. That ordinance was enacted in 2012 "to protect the environment."

The Colorado Supreme Court recently upheld the city's right to demand it, rejecting a challenge that called it a tax requiring voter approval under the state's Tabor law.

In 2017 the city passed an ordinance designed to restrict convenience and other store chains from over-populating the business district so as to preserve "the character" of the mountain town.

Colorado flag

It established a conditional use category where a formula retail business would undergo a special city review to determine whether it met retail diversity and good design criteria.

The ordinance defined what it called "formula retail" as any business with 11 other locations and which exhibited two of eight common characteristics, including standardized merchandise, service, trademarks, decor, facades and staff uniforms.

There are four categories of objectives according to the ordinance: maintaining a balanced and diversified retail experience; welcoming innovation and allowing new ideas to flourish; providing needed goods and services in a limited area; and complementing the "the artistically and culturally enriching entertainment opportunities for which Aspen is known." Within each category are three to four specific standards. The chain would have to meet at least one in each category plus an additional standard. If it failed it could not get a license.

Then, in January of this year, the city began levying a $3 tax on every pack of cigarettes, with the tax rising ten cents a year until it reaches $4 a pack. No one under 21 can sell or buy tobacco or nicotine items. Employees must rigorously check ID and store the products out of direct reach of customers.

In addition, each store selling tobacco must pay a license fee of $500.

This would protect kids from becoming addicted, the city fathers said. Opponents charged the ordinance would drive smokers outside city limits, putting a severe crimp in one of a convenience store's most lucrative products.

The state recently threw a bone to convenience stores, enacting a law that allows them to sell full-strength beer starting in January. A key provision for which convenience stores fought hard was that 18 to 20-year-olds would be permitted to sell the beer. But in Aspen?

Probably not.

DENVER — As predicted high gasoline prices didn't deter Colorado motorists from taking driving vacations over the holidays.

An estimated 650,000 Coloradans hit the roads over Memorial Day although gasoline prices were up 60 cents from the same time last year. Huge numbers also were expected to drive over the Fourth of July.

"Plain and simple, people just aren't worried about pump prices," said AAA Colorado spokesman Skyler McKinley. He cited a strong economy, record low unemployment rate, and a lot of consumer confidence as the reasons.

A survey done this year showed that when gasoline prices hit $3, Colorado residents would pay attention, but not cut back until it reached $4.

COLORADO SPRINGS — The El Paso County Health Department has begun publicizing which convenience stores — as well as restaurants and school cafeterias — it believes are most likely to leave the public sick after consuming their food.

A searchable database matches each establishment inspection with a color-coded rating as to the likelihood that violations the department found could cause a food-borne illness.

By clicking on an arrow next to the rating a consumer can see each violation. Critical violations appear in red.

COLORADO SPRINGS — Kum & Go has turned its & sign into works of art promoting the area.

Large Fiberglass ampersand sculptures at three stations mirror their surroundings. One features a community theme showing various tourist attractions, another, examples of outdoor recreation in the area, and a third has a historic theme. In the future, Kum & Go plans one honoring service men and women.

DENVER — A hybrid convenience store/fast casual restaurant has opened here.

Mike Fogarty's Choice Market was inspired by small format grocery stores he saw in Europe.

It is a high-end enterprise, featuring fresh, prepared items priced from $8 to $14. The target clientele is Millennials, who he says, "are willing to pay a premium price for a premium product. But if you don't want to spend $13 on our steak sandwich with caramelized onions and a mushroom reduction, there's a grab and go wrap for $6 or $7 that is still fresh and high quality."

All the meats are antibiotic and nitrate free.

Fogarty worked in restaurants throughout high school and college and was also influenced by what c-store chain Wawa offered in his native Philadelphia.

He hired Kevin Ward as general manager and culinary chief. Ward is a veteran chef who has worked at many high-end establishments. Ward's menu includes a variety of sandwiches, flatbreads, bowls, salads and vegetables, drawing on local resources as much as possible. Even the bread comes from a local bakery.

The 2,700-square-foot store stocks groceries and toiletries as well as made-to-order and grab-and-go foods.

Even the location is exotic. The store is housed in an apartment building in an area heavily populated by other businesses. Fogarty expects a lot of breakfast and lunch traffic.

He hopes that by focusing on good food he will have an edge over other convenience stores that offer a wider range of items.

DENVER — Operators of a website called Salary.com has surveyed gasoline retailers in the state and come up with purported salaries of attendants.

According to the website, Boulder stations pay the most at $22,232 a year, followed closely by Broomfield at $22,015.

The lowest salaries were reported in Pueblo at $20,107. The survey listed Denver stations paying an average of $21,929 and Colorado Springs, $21,733.

LOVELAND — Mike's Carwash recently celebrated 70 years in business.

To mark the occasion, the company offered its best wash, the Ultimate, for $7. "What better way to celebrate our big anniversary than to say thank you to the people who have made it possible: our loyal customers," said Mike Dahm, president. "We're discounting our best wash more than 50% because we want our customers to know how much we appreciate them and their continued business."

The Ultimate usually sells for $20 because it includes a fastwax, wheel brightener, underbody wash and tire shine.

The founder of Mike's is Joe Dahm, who estimates millions of cars have passed through its wash tunnels in 70 years.

"We've come a long way since starting out in 1948, but we've held fast to one goal: delivering a clean, quick carwash every time, with a smile for each customer — and we look forward to continuing to do so for many years to come."

DENVER — A woman has been cited for allegedly blowing up a microwave.

An attendant said the woman put a fluid in the machine that smelled like — and looked like — what normally belongs in a bathroom before the microwave exploded, drenching the area.

When the clerk told her to clean it up she left, but was later found at a clinic waiting for a physical and urinalysis for a job. It is suspected she was trying to claim someone else's specimen as her own by warming it up. She received a $500 summons for damaging property. Hopefully she got the job so she can pay.

IDAHO SPRINGS — Oops. Yes, gasoline prices have been soaring in Colorado but $7.99 for a gallon of unleaded?

That was on the sign of a Conoco here. The manager urged those who sped away to return as the sign was broken and the gasoline was only $2.99.

PALISADE — Golden Gate Petroleum was to open its first convenience store in Colorado in mid-May, choosing this small town for its location.

The family-owned business also is obtaining a full liquor license, available on a one-per-chain basis, to sell full-strength beer, wine and liquor. Because it lies well away from any liquor store it is not bound by distance requirements.

For many the arrival of the convenience store is the best boost to the economy of the town of 6,600 since the Dollar Store arrived.

Not that Golden Gate didn't have major hurdles to jump.

The first was its plan to erect a sixty-foot sign on the nearby highway. Because the store needed to attract highway traffic and its building would sit just below the eastbound ramp it would not otherwise be noticed. An opposing group contended the bright flashing lights on the sign would ruin the town's rural image. Golden Gate agreed to a fifty-foot sign. It also designed the back of the sign to blend in with the surrounding cliffs.

Then came the news that full-strength liquor would be sold. Some lamented that didn't reflect the small town's values and would drive people away. "We'll be the little town that nobody comes to anymore," said resident Susan Andrews.

But others noted the town needed the jobs and the taxes that would be coming.

Golden Gate conducted a survey which showed 100 of 168 people polled supported it. It said the town would also benefit from increased tourism.

The Town Board of Trustees approved the project and the paperwork went to the state for a license to be issued.

Not only is it hiring fifteen employees, Golden Gate promises to sell local products as much as possible, including a lot of the local wines and beers.

A local winery is thrilled because it closes at 5 p.m. and the store would be open twenty-four hours.

The store has erected sixteen pumps, an RV dump and propane station. Inside the 4,600-square-foot store is a full-service deli.

CLIFTON — Maverik already has a full-strength liquor license and also chose a rural area for its fully-equipped convenience store.

The property is well away from any liquor store and tucks its liquor away in a back section with its own register. Sales are not co-mingled with other products.

"We monitor it very closely," said Brian Turner, Mesa County liquor code enforcer for the state revenue department.

While liquor does very well, "It is not our main priority," said Aaron Simpson, chief marketing director. "Our main priority is food prepared fresh every day."

DENVER — Gasoline stations realize pumping fuel is a dirty, messy business, and now a few are trying to keep their customers oil and germ free.

They're offering a free pair of gloves called Grabbies, developed by Grabbies Media, a Colorado company. The gloves are available on an experimental basis at some Shell/Suncor Energy stations in Aurora, Centennial, Lakewood and Colorado Springs.

The gloves are made entirely from plant products. They are disposable and disintegrate within ninety days. As a bonus there is a coupon inside.

LAKEWOOD — She wanted to spend a few dollars to clear off the dirt and debris, but she ended up with a big car repair bill.

Jesse Vigil was following a car exiting Bucky's Car Wash when that vehicle suddenly stopped. She applied her brakes but her Buick didn't stop. She hit the other car, causing the license plate screw to puncture her bumper. According to one estimate she will have a bill of $1,000.

The other car, however, made a clean getaway.

BOULDER — These days the simple task of getting gasoline can be dangerous.

A man left his keys in his Nissan Xterra at about 8:25 A.M. as he went inside a Conoco station here.

He told police he saw a woman get behind his steering wheel and ran out to stop her. He grabbed the woman, who put the SUV in reverse and dragged him across the parking lot, severely injuring him.

The thief then became a one-woman crime wave. She hit another person who was in the parking lot. He escaped with a few cuts and bruises.

But the woman wasn't done. She crashed into the Conoco station as she fled in the stolen vehicle, causing severe damage.

DENVER — Police have arrested a man whose only crime was shoplifting until he returned to kill the clerk of a 7-Eleven.

Derek Sorenson was on duty when he spotted a man shoplifting and confronted him in a foyer of the building adjacent to the entrance of the convenience store.

When building security intervened the man fled.

But he returned about midnight and stabbed the clerk to death as he was taking a break. He is charged with first-degree murder.

DENVER — Gasoline prices are skyrocketing in Colorado, but the state's motorists are willing to take more of a hit than others in the nation before changing their lifestyle, a survey shows.

"They say the only two things in life are certain: death and taxes. I humbly submit a third: gas market volatility," said AAA Colorado spokesman Skyler McKinley.

A AAA survey showed nationally one in four motorists would start making changes at $2.75, while forty percent say $3 is their tipping point.

But in Colorado gasoline would have to reach $4 a gallon before motorists would change their lifestyle. At $3 they would only be a little more cautious.

The gap between other motorists in the country and Colorado is largely the result of the state's robust economy and high consumer confidence, according to AAA Colorado, whose membership exceeds 660,000.

Originally published in the August 2018 issue of the O&A Marketing News.
Copyright 2018 by KAL Publications Inc.

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