Parking at north City Market just became a little tougher.
Not because of raised medians, narrow lanes and tight turning radiuses, but because a section of the parking lot has been roped off – reclaimed by its rightful owner.
Mac’s Liquor said it took back its parking spaces after failing to renew a lease agreement with City Market, which has rented about a dozen parking spaces from the liquor store since 1981.
Mac’s Liquor is now leasing the parking lot to Peach Valley Produce, which sells peaches, cherries, tomatoes, corn and other produce from Colorado.
The lease agreement between Mac’s Liquor and City Market was renewed three times over 36 years. It was up for renewal in April, but City Market offered almost half the amount it had been paying, said Robert Payton, manager at Mac’s Liquor.
He declined to share publicly how much money City Market was paying for the parking spaces, but he showed those numbers to The Durango Herald to prove what the grocery store offered.
“The amount isn’t completely egregious for Durango,” he said of the previous lease. “Is it an amount that some people may question? Certainly.”
Payton said Peach Valley Produce is paying a “comparable” amount to what City Market offered.
Adam Williamson, director of corporate affairs for City Market, also declined to share dollar figures. But he said City Market was paying “way above” market value for the parking spaces and made a “very reasonable offer” before negotiations ended.
“We really did offer a fair and balanced offer,” Williamson said. “It truly is going off what the market value is for such space.”
Parking was already difficult during peak times at north City Market, and the loss of a dozen spaces hasn’t helped. But after losing the extended parking lot, City Market restriped part of its lot near the south end of the store, which added seven spaces, Williamson said.
The parking lot boundaries don’t make perfect sense for Mac’s Liquor. The liquor store owns the parking lot behind the store, which means customers must walk around the building to the front door, which faces west toward Main Avenue. So most customers park on the north side of the building, closest to the front door. But that parking lot is owned by City Market.
In a sign of growing tensions, City Market this week began parking its vans on the north side of Mac’s Liquor, where liquor store customers usually park. And the liquor store’s decision to lease part of its parking lot to a fruit and vegetable vendor smacks of competition for the grocery store.
Williamson, who works in Denver, said he was unaware north City Market began parking its vans by the liquor store. As far as the liquor store leasing its parking lot to a produce vendor, he said City Market also carries Colorado fruits and vegetables in its stores.
He hopes the pettiness can end.
City Market strives to maintain positive relationships with adjacent businesses at shopping centers across the state because they typically complement one another, he said. Shoppers who go to one store are likely to visit another, and vice versa, he said.
“We always try to have a good relationship because we are neighbors,” Williamson said.
Payton said customers are upset with both City Market and the liquor store. But the liquor store has to protect its interests.
“We have to guarantee parking to our people,” he said.
He hypothesized City Market may be testing the water ahead of potential negotiations to purchase Mac’s Liquor’s property. The liquor store was for sale a couple of years ago, and City Market made a low-ball offer, Payton said.
Or the grocery store may want to purchase Mac’s Liquor’s liquor license, he said. Under a state law passed last year, grocery stores can begin selling full-strength beer and wine, but first they have to buy existing liquor licenses from liquor stores within 1,500 feet of the grocery store. That would include Mac’s Liquor if north City Market wanted to begin selling full-strength beer and wine.
Peach Valley Produce, which opened a week ago behind Mac’s Liquor, plans to operate seven days a week through Halloween. It is the vendor’s second location in Durango, said co-owner Jeremy Swiger.
The company has sold produce for about 10 years during the summer months in front of Durango High School.
Business is off to a slow start at north City Market, Swiger said, but that’s typical for a new location and it being this early in the season. It will be a small stand because of permitting issues with the city, he said. The vendor specializes in fresh Colorado produce, especially Palisade peaches.
“We won’t be able to compete on price, but we’ll have better quality,” Swiger said. “Our goal is quality over quantity.
“It was just an opportunity that happened because of all the stuff happening between City Market and Mac’s,” he said. “It was kind of a last-minute thing. We decided to give it a try.”