Basehor grocery closing causes uncertainties for city
The closing of Basehor’s Wolf Creek Parkway grocery store has created several uncertainties for the city.
And possibly the most glaring of those uncertainties is how the city will pay for the loan it secured from the Kansas Department of Transportation to fund its Wolf Creek project.
Wolf Creek Marketplace, which opened July 17, 2009, was constructed in Basehor’s transportation development district on Wolf Creek Parkway, a project for which the city received $1.6 million from KDOT that was to be repaid with a portion of sales taxes generated from businesses constructed in the district. The first of such businesses was the long-awaited grocery store. Its closing is worrisome for Basehor, City Administrator Mark Loughry said.
“The impact (of the grocery store closing) to the city is now we have $1.6 million in debt and no projected revenue to pay it,” Loughry said. “It’s a loan from KDOT. We have to pay it. There are only a few ways a city can raise money: ad valorem taxes, sales taxes and fees.”
The city will not have to begin making payments on the loan until next year, Loughry said, and it hopes another store will occupy the marketplace’s building or other businesses will come to the district to bring in sales tax revenue. But with land along the transportation development district priced at about $240,000 an acre, Loughry is unsure businesses can afford to build there.
“It’s going to be tough for businesses to pay that,” he said. “I’m concerned no businesses will come in. And there’s not much we can do. It’s not our property, so we can’t lower the price on it, and it’s not our grocery store, so we can’t go out and recruit people to take it over.”
With such a plight, Basehor would have to look at raising taxes, though Loughry said that was something the city was committed to preventing.
“Taxes may have to increase,” Loughry said. “But we really will try to keep that from happening. It might mean some projects we’ve budgeted will have to be put on hold for a while as we make payments on the loan. We don’t want to have to raise taxes.”
As for the cause of the store’s downfall, Loughry said it could only be speculated, but the city did everything it could to help. The city’s efforts included the $1.6 million in funding, a reimbursement on part of the 1 percent sales tax on the store after one year of operation and property tax rebates, Loughry said.
“I can’t say why (it’s closing),” Loughry said. “I don’t know their business model. I do know we offered them all the incentives we possibly could to make it successful.”
Loughry said he doubted the absence of the store’s access on 150th Street was the primary reason for closing.
“Anyone can question that,” he said about the 150th Street project. “They can’t say for sure it did (influence the closing), and we can’t say for sure it didn’t. I do know the market studies they conducted before opening concluded the store had adequate access and visibility with the streets already in place.”
The store shutting its doors poses questions not only for the city but for the grocery employees, as well. Storeowner and manager Kevin Barclay sent lists of his staff members to stores in the area and scheduled interviews for several of his employees, from which six or seven secured other employment.
Customer service supervisor Stephanie Price said she was sad to have to leave her current job.
“I loved it here,” Price said. “I was going to stay (at the store) because I loved it so much. Working for Kevin wasn’t like working for your boss. We were a family.”
Price left a previous job of 12 years to join the marketplace’s team, a decision she said she still believed was right.
“I don’t regret anything about it,” she said. “Even though I only worked here seven months, I don’t regret leaving my old job. The people I’ve met and the experience I’ve had, it’s been wonderful.”
Though she doesn’t have a job yet, Price is confident she will find one soon, especially with Barclay in her corner.
“I know he’s been making calls for me,” she said. “I’ll find something.”
Checker Kristin Theno is in the same boat as Price, looking for another job and wanting to stay in the Basehor area.
“I’m unemployed now,” Theno said. “I’m sad and upset because I loved it here. We were definitely a family, and that’s hard to find.”
Theno said she was looking for a retail position that would accommodate her Kansas City Kansas Community College class schedule as well as Wolf Creek had.
Barclay said the grocery was taking each day at a time, still allowing customers in to buy items left on the shelves without an exact closing date.