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DURANGO, COLO. — Citing a costly lease renewal agreement and woes from road construction along U.S. Highway 64, Durango Joe's closed its Bloomfield location July 31.

The coffee shop, which opened at 500 W. Broadway Ave. five years ago, subleased the front half of the building and drive-thru window from Verizon, which used the back half of the building for its store. After the first lease expired, the property owner raised the lease amount and asked for a 10-year agreement, Durango Joe's owner Joe Lloyd said, explaining that was more than he wanted to pay.

He said the Bloomfield closure was disappointing.

"We were bummed," Lloyd said. "The store was just starting to become profitable again after the long, long road construction."

The coffee shop was located at the intersection of U.S. Highway 64 and U.S. Highway 550. U.S. Highway 64 is also known as the Bloomfield Highway and Broadway Avenue. The major thoroughfares are often busy with heavy truck traffic, including oversized oilfield rigs and semi trucks that use the highways to pass through Bloomfield to locations in the San Juan Basin or to the gas plants just north of town.

The $16.5 million road-widening construction project, which was delayed and ran $2 million over budget, increased the thoroughfare from two to six lanes. The state Department of Transportation began the road work in January 2011 and finished last year, but it took a heavy toll on many Bloomfield businesses.

"Bloomfield was very stagnant because of the construction," Lloyd said. "It was very difficult. All the businesses were struggling. But business was starting to really pick up. We were starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. That's what makes it so hard to leave."

Durango Joe's will continue to look for a new location in Bloomfield, but Lloyd said the company has yet to find a new spot. He said the company is planning to open two new coffee shops in Farmington in about a year. The two locations are planned for spots near the city's two Walmarts — one on the west side of town and the other to the east.

The new Farmington locations are expected to employ a total of approximately 35 employees. Lloyd said about two-thirds of the Bloomfield store's employees transferred to existing Durango Joe's locations. The company currently has two locations in Farmington and one in Aztec. It also has four locations here, where it opened its first store on College Boulevard in 2004. The company employs about 100 employees who work at the company's Colorado and New Mexico locations.

"Our Bloomfield employees were absorbed into our other three stores (in San Juan County), and the other third decided to move on," Lloyd said. "We gave those who left a month's compensation pay for staying through to the final closing day."

Lloyd said that Durango Joe's formula is less about the coffee, and more about the people it hires and the customers it serves.

"I'm not in the coffee business. We're in the people business," he said. "Most of our growth is going to be in San Juan County — Albuquerque soon, too, I hope."

In June, Verizon moved three blocks west to its new location at 816 W. Broadway Ave., next to Subway.

Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce board president Janet Mackey said that even though she's not a coffee drinker, she was sorry to see the coffee shop go.

"Durango Joe's will be missed," Mackey said. "I'm almost 60 years old and have never had a cup of coffee in my life, but my granddaughter was quite upset when she heard. We hope they'll reopen in Bloomfield soon."

Domino's Pizza will move from its current location at 204 W. Broadway Ave. to the building Durango Joe's vacated later this year, according to Bloomfield City Clerk Erikka Martinez.

James Fenton is the business editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621 and jfenton@daily-times.com. Follow him @fentondt on Twitter.

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