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A beloved 'neighborhood store,' Boulder King Soopers reopens one year after mass shooting

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Leigh Paterson
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KUNC
The Table Mesa King Soopers redesign includes larger windows, a colorful mural of the Flatirons and an expanded bakery and floral department.

Almost one year after 10 people were killed at a grocery store in Boulder, the redesigned building is finally open again for shoppers. For many, the Table Mesa King Soopers is a bright spot for a community that has been dealing with a string of disasters.

Harold Fielden, who shopped three times in the first week the store was open, recently spent an hour inside after just going in for some soda. He ran into a manager, an employee and a friend.

“Everybody's just wandering around chatting. So it's really cool,” Fielden told KUNC in the store’s parking lot Tuesday.

The Table Mesa King Soopers will turn 50 this summer; the store has been around since Boulder was just a quiet town. Fielden himself has been shopping there for 40 years.

“All the people around here, in the neighborhood, have been coming here forever,” he said. “It's like a neighborhood store.”

The redesigned space is bright with larger windows and skylights. The cafe, floral department and bakery have all been upgraded. The flooring is new, as is a large, colorful mural of the Flatirons at the entryway. A security vehicle is parked out front; guards are stationed inside.

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Eric Scott
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King Soopers
Local Boulder artist Lael Har painted a mural for the entryway of the Table Mesa King Soopers.

“I don't know if the word twinge is the right word, but like a little twinge walking in the door,” said Fielden, in describing how it felt to be back inside the store. “But once when I walked in, we were fine. It was just, you know, it's weird.”

Ten people were shot and killed at the Table Mesa King Soopers on a cold morning last March. The victims included employees and shoppers as well as a police officer, who was a father of seven.

In December, Boulder District Attorney Michael Dougherty announced that the man charged with the shooting had been found to be incompetent to stand trial and was referred to a state mental health hospital for treatment.

The incident devastated the community.

“And then of course, you have the double whammy, as you know, between this and the fire,” Fielden added.

The area has withstood multiple disasters over the
past two years, from the pandemic to the East Troublesome and Calwood fires to the shooting. Then, on the morning of Dec. 30, just a few miles from the Table Mesa King Soopers, the Marshall Fire destroyed over 1,000 homes.

APTOPIX Colorado Wildfires
David Zalubowski/AP
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AP
Homes burn as the Marshall Fire rips through a development near Rock Creek Village in Superior, Colorado, Dec. 30, 2021.

“I was really lucky we didn't have to evacuate, but I could see the flames from my bedroom window,” said Parker Hubler, a local high school senior.

Hubler and other shoppers who spoke to KUNC were still shocked by the fire.

“I grew up here. Nothing ever happens,” Hubler said. “All I can say about growing up in Boulder is stuff on the news is about, like, hiking trails. I don't know. Like, there's nothing happens here and then all of a sudden, in the past two years, it's been insane.”

After the shooting, she wasn’t sure the store would ever come back.

“And so I think it's really good that they chose to redesign it and reopen it and kind of say, ‘OK, look, we're still here, we'll make it new and make it beautiful.’ And, you know, welcome everybody back,” Hubler said.

Many of the original employees of the Table Mesa King Soopers have come back too; about half chose to return.

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Leigh Paterson
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KUNC
Mike Engelhardt, an assistant deli manager, chose to go back to work at the Table Mesa King Soopers because of his friendships with co-workers.

“I've been at a lot of stores in the company,” Mike Engelhardt, an assistant deli manager, said. “In this store, you know, the people are great, the atmosphere's great, the organization cleanliness, everything is spot on.”

While the Table Mesa location was closed, Engelhardt would meet up with some of the deli workers for breakfast, usually at a nearby pancake place. These days, he tries to think back on joking around with Denny Stong, a 20-year-old employee who was killed.

Engelhardt copes with what happened by staying busy, fixing up cars and motorcycles. He really likes the store redesign.

“Just like the fires, you know, no matter what the struggle, these people are going to rebuild, you know? It's a sign of strength,” Engelhardt said.

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