A few weeks after a rumor broke concerning the future plans for City Market in Eagle, company representative Joel Starbuck addressed the Eagle Town Board during a packed meeting Tuesday night, saying that the supermarket chain has no intention of leaving the community.
However, he also noted that the company would like a bigger store in Eagle. If that isn't possible then Starbuck said City Market might consider a second, downvalley location.
The City Market issue popped up recently as Eagle residents prepare for the May 22 Eagle River Station referendum. Proponents of the project cited the fact that the supermarket contributes approximately 40 percent of the town's sales tax revenues and noted the Kroger chain, which operates City Market stores, has been moving to larger format stores.
Starbuck introduced his remarks by noting City Market has operated in Eagle for 15 years and that the company owns the property where its 38,000-square-foot store is now located. He said the Eagle store is profitable and the company has no concerns with the operation. However, he acknowledged the Eagle site is constrained.
"We are not able to expand at our current store," said Starbuck. "We wish it could be larger."
As the company considers how to handle an Eagle store expansion, Starbuck said he has looked at alternative sites in both Eagle and Gypsum.
"Gypsum has no effect on our Eagle store. If Gypsum could support a store, I would locate a store in Gypsum but Gypsum is not an alternative to Eagle," he said.
"City Market has absolutely no intent of leaving the town of Eagle. Regardless of what happens on May 22, we are here to stay," said Starbuck.
Although he initially said his plan was to make a statement and not take questions, town board members wheedled him into answering a few queries.
"You packed the house. It's like Tony Bennett is here. You have to let us ask questions," said town board member Scot Webster.
Webster commended Starbuck for coming to Eagle to address the rumors that have been circulating around town.
"If I worked for a corporation, I don't know how I would feel standing there. You have kind of been caught in the middle of our decision process as a town," said Webster.
Webster asked if City Market would be willing to sign a letter stating it was the company's intention to keep a store in Eagle for the next 10 years, noting that it might be a difficult promise to make. Starbuck responded that no, he really couldn't offer that kind of a guarantee.
"Such a large amount of our sales tax revenue comes from one store, people get nervous," said town board member Scott Turnipseed.
Turnipseed cited two specific issues - the findings of town consultant Arne Ray showing that City Market is moving toward a 60,000-square-foot format for stores in Western Colorado and the recent issue in Carbondale where the company wanted to expand to a 60,000-square-foot store. He said in looking at those specific issues, the town became concerned about the future for its largest single sales tax generating business.
"There's nothing the town can do but work with you the most we can to keep you here and we will do that," said Turnipseed. "We don't want to see City Market leave because there is no room for them to expand or no other suitable spots."
"If there is an alternative that presents itself in Eagle ... that makes economic sense, we would love to build a bigger store in Eagle," said Starbuck. "We would like a bigger store."