Tale of closed grocery store fishy

It appears something fishy is happening with Boulder City’s closed grocery store. And we’re not talking about the shrimp, oysters, scallops and other fish that was sold in the seafood department.

Since Haggen closed in late 2015, the building at the corner of Buchanan Boulevard and Nevada Highway has sat empty. While residents’ frustrations grew from having only one grocery store to shop at, city leaders worked to try and attract a new grocer to fill the space.

“We were so close to announcing a new tenant and now we aren’t,” said Brok Armantrout, community development director for the city.

And while they were working, behind the scenes a different type of negotiations were going on. County assessor records show that in June 2015, the Vons Cos. sold the 2.96 acre piece of property for $10 to GIG TCG Wave Master Property Owner, a limited liability corporation registered in Delaware managed by Garrison Investment Group in New York. The records show the property was part of a multiple parcel sale and was valued at nearly $6 million.

Tax statements were the responsibility of a Haggen subsidiary.

Then, on Sept. 8, 2016, another Delaware-registered limited liability corporation, Boulder Investco, which is managed by the same New York investment group, paid $10 to purchase the property. No value was listed on the property records though the assessor’s office shows the parcel has a taxable value of about $2.7 million.

Unfortunately, Delaware’s registry of who actually owns the corporations is virtually impenetrable.

Before the second sale, Jill Rowland-Lagan, CEO of the Boulder City Chamber of Commerce, said she was working with a woman named Dana Goldsmith to try and find a new tenant. According to Rowland-Lagan, Goldsmith wanted to sell the property before October, which she did — just as negotiations with a potential tenant/grocer were nearing completion. It appears the sale was to a fellow member of the Cogent Group, a company of seasoned real estate professionals who specialize in acquisition, disposition, development and property management. Prior to forming the company in December 2008, the principals worked for other real estate groups, including those with ties to the multiple companies/brands that now make up the Albertsons company.

Interestingly enough, the Albertsons Cos. purchased what was left of Haggen after it filed bankruptcy and sold all but 15 of the stores that remained from the 146 Albertsons and Safeway (Vons) stores it acquired in Nevada, Washington, Oregon, California and Arizona when the Federal Trade Commission approved a merger between the two grocery giants. The sale was required to avoid a monopoly situation, which is exactly what seems to be happening now.

So where does that leave Boulder City?

Armantrout said it is his understanding that the new owner doesn’t want a grocery store to occupy the space. Instead, the owner wants to break up the building into smaller units.

Despite that, he said the city is “still actively trying to court a second grocery store to come to town.” But, they are running into obstacles — the biggest of which is the city’s population.

He said the smallness that makes the city so charming and appealing to residents also is it’s biggest challenge because grocers don’t feel there are enough people here to make it a viable operation.

That includes Smith’s. Armantrout said the city courted Smith’s and they said no.

While the local Albertsons store manager, Russ Dodge, is doing his best to alleviate the situation, there is only so much he can do.

Rowland-Lagan said she is working with Dodge and others in the community to try and make things better. She’s also trying to come up with alternatives.

Until then, beware of the fish because it appears that something stinks.