Gambles rebuilds in Granby on site where the dozer stopped
December 1, 2011
An empty lot in Granby with a dramatic history is undergoing a renaissance.
The Gambles lot owned by Cacey and Ronda Farrell was the site where Marvin Heemeyer ended his life in the throes of his June 4, 2004, bulldozer rampage after Heemeyer already had rammed his armored machine into the Farrells’ appliances and hardware store located at the site.
Now seven years later, the Farrells are rebuilding a new 4,500 square-foot appliance and vacuum store, which is slated to open by the end of February.
A recent inheritance, a more competitively priced building climate, and the desire to “get back onto Main Street” fueled the Farrells’ ability to rebuild, according to Casey Farrell.
With the destruction of several buildings in town during Heemeyer’s vengeful rampage that day, the Gambles property is the last to be rebuilt.
“The biggest thing for Ronda and I is to get our own space and stop paying rent,” Farrell said, adding, “It will be good for Main Street.”
The new building should offer the Farrells the ability to slightly expand inventory of home appliances and vacuums in their niche business, which has been in existence since 1992.
After the circa-1952 Gambles building was destroyed at the hand of Heemeyer, the Farrells held a sale on merchandise that had survived. With a downsized inventory, the Farrells then moved the store to the business plaza on the western end of Granby. And when the recession hit, Gambles moved again to share space with other businesses in the Legacy building toward the eastern end of Granby.
Sales have since remained flat, Farrell said, so the move back to Main Street may help with better exposure. The store will continue to carry leading brands in appliances and to offer “competitive” service that includes delivery and installation.
“Sometimes, we get beat up, but sometimes I get to beat up on the big boxes too,” Farrell said. “It works both ways.”
Cost of revenge
Heemeyer had targeted Farrell’s business on the day of his rampage because Farrell was a Granby town board member at the time and had voted in favor of the development of a concrete batch plant on a piece of property next to Heemeyer’s welding shop.
“Initially, Casey expressed cautious support of Marv’s position, then reluctant support” in favor of the batch plant, said former Sky-Hi News publisher and editor Patrick Brower, who is working on a book about the events surrounding Heemeyer’s bulldozer attacks entitled “Killdozer.”
“Casey had concerns about the batch plant at first, but he ultimately voted in favor,” Brower said. Heemeyer’s complaints to the Granby Town Board resulted in improvements to the batch-plant project, which Farrell recognized was a “better project” in the end, according to Brower.
“The crazy part is, I had liked Marv,” Farrell said. “We did business together.”
After Heemeyer failed to stop the project at the town level, he sued the town over the process, but lost the lawsuit. He then planned his revenge in the shape of an armored and plated bulldozer he would use to target several businesses and a home, each owned by either a town official or the concrete-batch-plant owner. He also included on his list the town hall, library and Sky-Hi News.
That day of reckoning, after Heemeyer had shot at the propane tanks and destroyed the home of the town’s deceased mayor, Heemeyer headed to Gambles west on Highway 40. He took a sharp right turn toward the building, then clipped the front of the next-door Kopy Kat store’s front porch.
When attempting to correct his machine’s trajectory to again target Gambles, the bulldozer’s radiator hose blew, according to expert analysis of the incident recounted by Brower. The engine was now overheating to extreme levels and couldn’t cool itself, despite extra fans Heemeyer had built into the system to compensate for the fact he’d encased the radiator and engine in steel armor to defend against possible gunfire.
With 25 tons of weight he’d added to the machine, fans were not enough to keep the engine cool, according to testimony from experts. But Heemeyer already had managed to smash the front of the Gambles building and then the length of the store’s west wall. There, the bulldozer stalled out and Heemeyer ended his life.
Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603