The end of an era

Jones store on the Hill closing today


At the close of business today, a general store that has become a Boulder institution will shut its doors for the last time.

Jones General Store and Camera, located at 1370 College Ave. on University Hill, is closing today because its building is being demolished to make way for a new development, and its owners say they can’t afford the higher rent that will be charged in the new building.

Louie Moschetti had worked at the store since 1968 before purchasing it with his brother Roxy in 2006.

Property owners Jeff and Sandra Holland, and the developer, Mike Boyers of Del Mar Interests, plan to construct a three-level facility that will have retail space on the ground floor and 13 residential units on the top two floors.

Currently, the store occupies 3,500 square feet. The Moschettis say it would have cost them almost twice as much just to lease about 2,500 square feet in the new building. And they couldn’t find suitable space elsewhere in Boulder, so they decided to close down a store that has roots stretching back to 1902.

“We couldn’t make it work,” Roxy says. “We looked around, but nothing was big enough.”

Jones Drug was opened by J.T. Jones 108 years ago in the 1200 block of and Pearl Street, where it was a fixture until 1959, when it was moved to its current location. Jones’ grandson, Rick Jones of Lyons, told Boulder Weekly that his father, Dick, began working at the store shortly after World War II and ran the store until his death in 1971. After that, Dick Jones’ daughter Candy and husband Chuck McKinley ran the store until 1984, when they sold it to Tito Roberts. When the Moschettis bought it four years ago, they reopened it under the new name.

Jones says that his grandfather moved to Boulder from Iowa in 1901. His father, Dick, earned three degrees from the University of Colorado, including one in pharmacy, but didn’t want to work at the family store. In 1946, however, there was fire at Jones Drug, and Dick pitched in to help his father — and ended up staying.

Jones says his grandfather and dad “knew everybody in town” and when the family would go out to eat, “my dad ended up standing up about 10 times as people stopped by to say hi.”

He adds that hearing of the store’s closure “was a little tough to take.”

Louie Moschetti, the current co-owner, started working at the store as a janitor 42 years ago, then worked his way up to merchandise manager, store manager and general manager. Among his most vivid memories of the store is the riot on the Hill in May 1971.

“The rioters broke all the windows out and totally looted the store,” he recalls.
The looters stole all of the stereo systems, vinyl records, speakers and camera equipment, Moschetti says.

“They took toilet paper and squirted lighter fluid on it to start a fire,” he remembers. “I was the janitor, so I had to clean up the mess.”

According to Moschetti, the store’s prominent shoppers have included Robert Redford, William Shatner and Courtney Thorne Smith.

“Bill Murray would have his limo drop him off at the video arcade next door and he’d come in to get some cigars,” he says. “This corner has always been like the crossroads of the world, because you’d have everyone from very famous people to transients.”

“You could have the weirdest bum in the world or a Nobel Prize winner buying a Snapple,” adds Steve Persson, who has worked at the store since 1989. Persson says that despite a sign on the side of the store saying its last day would be Oct. 1, they decided to close Sept. 30 to avoid entering another pay period and having to pay employees for one day.

Moschetti says that while the redevelopment has been discussed off and on for several years, it came as a surprise when Boyers announced this summer that the building was slated for destruction.

 Persson told Boulder Weekly that Boyers just came into the store one day and told the cashier that he was going to tear down the building.

“I’m sure Donald Trump does his building deals just like that, by telling the secretary,” Persson says. “I think it’s a shame that for the benefit of a couple of people, they’re going to put 40 people out of work.”

Boyers told Boulder Weekly that is simply not true, and that he and Jeff Holland had notified the Moschettis of their intent to redevelop the building six months ago.

“We did not say anything to the people at the counter,” he says. “That absolutely did not happen.”

Moschetti says the project was originally slated to start in August, so
he canceled the photo supplies and other merchandise he typically
orders in preparation for the University of Colorado students returning to campus. Some of those orders had already been shipped, though, and the store had to pay $500 to send one back, he says. Then the date of the project was pushed back and the store didn’t have the merchandise it needed for the start of the semester.

The store, which has long been a popular spot for students to buy sundries, was given a 30-day notice on Sept. 10, and had been holding a liquidation sale.

“There will be some stuff left over that we’ll have to donate or give to a liquidator,” says Moschetti, who has not made plans yet for what he will do next.

His brother Roxy, who had retired in 2004 after a 42-year career at Boulder Lumber, plans to go back to retirement.

“I’m going fishing,” he says.

Boyers told Boulder Weekly that the $9 million redevelopment is expected to be completed by August 2011. Current tenants that will move out and then move back in when the development is complete include Snarf’s and Silver & Gold Barber and Stylist. The other tenant in the new building will be College Optical, which is owned by the Hollands.

“I’m so sorry about the Jones Drug thing, that’s been the only negative thing about this,” Boyers says, adding that he has not ruled out the possibility that the two sides could still work out an arrangement for Jones to return. 

“I certainly haven’t closed the door on them,” he says.