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Grocery store in Three Springs? Yes, no and maybe

Potential site of a new grocery store in Three Springs, with intricately crafted artistic rendering of how the store might look with shoppers and a bright green car with blocky tires parked out front. (Action Line illustration)

Dear Action Line: I recently heard that the proposed Farmers Fresh Market that was to be built just south of the Morehart Murphy Subaru dealership had been canceled. As residents of the Volunteers of America Miremonte apartment building just a few yards away, I and others were really looking forward to being able to buy groceries there instead of having to trek into town. What’s the status? – N.D. Hood

Dear N.D.: We’ll start by saying that officially the project is not off the table but is on hold. Does that help a little?

The answer is there is no solid answer at the moment. What’s interesting is to hear what rumors people have heard and the scuttlebutt on the site NextDoor.com. People like to tell you more than they know sometimes. Action Line will try not to do that here.

Those of us who would benefit from a grocery store in the Three Springs area (full-disclosure: this includes Action Line) are jonesing for this to come about. (Another parenthetical: “jonesing” actually appears in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary.) But we must be patient.

When Action Line addressed this issue last spring, Farmers Fresh was hoping to break ground on the 4.5-acre site south of Morehart Murphy as early as summer 2022. This obviously did not happen. Now the land is for sale. But that doesn’t mean Farmers Fresh is out of the picture.

See how confusing this all is, and rife for rumors?

Farmers Fresh Market opened in Ignacio in 2015. The owners, Ezra and Brook Lee (Brook is a La Plata County native), are hopeful of expanding to Three Springs, but are being cautious.

There are a whole lot of hurdles for a relatively small company to clear, Farmers Fresh General Manager Amos Lee explained to Action Line. The project is “shovel ready,” but construction costs are spiraling. It’s not easy to get reasonable bids from construction companies, which, when bidding on a project, have to protect themselves from those soaring costs.

Supply chain issues still crop up. Finding enough employees is another unknown. And city of Durango impact fees aren’t cheap, Lee said. The hurdles are “pretty daunting,” Lee said.

Action Line realized that it’s like entering a swimming a pool: You want to make sure there’s enough water before you dive in. Lee responded with what sounded like an honest chuckle in agreement.

Farmers Fresh was scheduled to meet last week with the city, but Action Line did not have a fly on the wall for this meeting. Not even one of those flies with the electronic listening device, which can be so useful.

“We are still in active conversations with Farmers Fresh about their project and looking for ways to assist them in moving forward,” said Scott Shine, the city’s director of community development. “From what they’ve told us, they’ve paused the project due to the cost of materials and other factors.

“We agree that a grocery store would be a great addition to this neighborhood and we’re looking at a variety of ways to support the project.”

What the land being up for sale means is a little unclear, but readers can make their own conclusions. There is a demand for a grocery store in Three Springs, and a still-growing population. Action Line isn’t the only one pestering Farmers Fresh about when the store is coming.

“I hear that a lot,” Lee said.

Dear AL: The past few weeks, the main automatic opening doors at the Durango Recreation Center have had “out of order” signs on them. Members have to use side doors, which seem a little heavy for the elderly or the infirmed. Is this just another instance of supply chain disruption not allowing for prompt repair? Are the front desk staff members simply sick of getting a blast of cold air? If the latter is true then I support us not freezing the friendly staff. This seems like the kind of reporting that could land you a Pulitzer; happy to help build that resume! – Pat H. Wayblocked

Dear Wayblocked: This is fantastic news, because Action Line is a big fan of Benjamin Franklin, whose profile appears on the gold-plated medal that will soon be awarded for this answer and ensuing Pulitzer.

There are a couple of things going on here, explained Kelli Jaycox, assistant recreation director.

“One, when it is cold the doors open very slowly, so the customers have to wait for them to open enough to get in.

“Two, it is cold at the counter. Therefore in the earlier mornings when it is really cold they keep the doors closed until it warms up a little outside,” Jaycox continued. “Due to the positive pressure of the building … the cold outside air does give the staff a good blast of cold air.”

And as far as mechanics? “The doors are currently open and working great.”

Wow. That is some stellar “disinterested and meritorious public reporting rendered” there – the very definition of a deserving Pulitzer achievement!

Email questions and suggestions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. Merry Christmas, happy holidays and isn’t it great that we passed the solstice and days are getting longer?