Denver specialty grocery chain Marczyk Fine Foods is not opening its third location in a converted Safeway store in southeast Denver.

The final chapter in the saga of the empty big-box store on the corner of Happy Canyon Road and East Hampden Avenue came to an end earlier this year when the grocer reached an agreement with owner, Colorado real estate company Bellray, for stakes in the To dissolve the lease there, confirmed co-founder and CEO Pete Marczyk.

He compared sharing the news with people eagerly awaiting the arrival of the deal announced in fall 2019 to announcing a wedding had been canceled.

“It was a mutual decision made after a tremendous amount of work on both sides trying to get the deal over the finish line,” said Marczyk. “And there were so many circumstances that occurred between the time the lease was signed and the time we moved out. It just fell apart and COVID didn’t help. “

The separation was amicable, emphasized Marczyk. Bellray Holdings officials could not be reached on Thursday.

The grocer should not be the only resident of the long vacant Safeway, but only take up 5,000 of the 40,000 square meter space and anchor a larger market hall concept that is similar to the Denver Central Market or the Stanley Marketplace. The other major tenant should be a large-format liquor store. Seated restaurants and an ice cream parlor were also in the mix, said Buzz Calkins, president and CEO of Bellray Holdings, in 2019.

Now the future of the entire project is in the air.

Calkins and Co. aren’t the first real estate operators to try to convert the Safeway building into something new. Bellray owns the Dunkin Donuts in the same mall and took control of the Safeway and the larger strip center that surrounds it in 2019 by purchasing the mortgage debt of former owner Gary Dragul for $ 24.2 million.

Dragul’s assets have been the subject of bankruptcy proceedings after he was charged with securities fraud in 2018 for managing his real estate empire. A trial in one of the criminal cases against him is due to begin on June 28 in Arapahoe County, according to the Colorado Judicial Branch website.

Dragul and his partners had plans to bring Tony’s Meats & Market, another Denver fine grocery standby company, to the mall in an effort to tap a southeast Denver customer base that many consider hungry for such a deal.

In addition to offering a range of packaged specialties, produce, meat and seafood, Marczyk specializes in selling a wide variety of homemade foods, including bread and deli sandwiches. It now has two stores, the original location being located at 770 E 17th Ave. in 2002. opened, and then a store about three miles east at 5100 E. Colfax Ave.

The Happy Canyon deal may be gone, but Pete Marczyk said he was still interested in bringing a business to southeast Denver. In the meantime, the company is exploring opportunities to open a location in downtown Westminster on the site of the former Westminster Mall.

The company recently moved into new office and kitchen space in a renovated warehouse in the Park Hill neighborhood of Denver. After a challenging year in which the grocer was able to increase both its sales and its expenses, Marczyk is grateful for his around 90 employees.

“The team really rose,” he said. “We didn’t close a day during the pandemic.”