Fate of Clifton Circle K undecided but plans are for a larger store to be built

Photo By Walt Mares: Clifton’s Circle K convenience store is closed at present. The company is deciding whether or not to repair the building and reopen it. Meanwhile, the company has told Clifton town officials it will soon be submitting plans and requests for permits to build a larger store. It will be located in the area of the building on left, which formerly housed a DES office.

By Walt Mares

CLIFTON – The fate of the now-unoccupied Circle K store in Clifton is undecided but the company will reportedly be applying for a permit to build a much larger store next door.

Clifton Town Manager Rudy Perez said he had an April 21 conversation with a Circle K spokeswoman in which he was told the company will submit permits and applications to the town within a month to construct a new and bigger store in town.

Perez said his conversation with the Circle K spokeswoman occurred two weeks ago, so the company has only two more weeks to submit its requests to the town. That probably will not occur before the town council’s regular monthly meeting on May 12.

The property that would house the newer store was purchased sometime in the past three years. It had housed an Arizona Department of Economic Security office.

As far as the existing building that has housed the Circle K, Perez said he was also told that the company is deciding whether to conduct repairs and reopen the existing store that closed in mid-March. The shutdown came without any advance notice to the public. 

The closing was done quickly. Access to the facility was closed off with yellow caution tape. Workers could be seen hustling items from the store.

Within a couple of days, a tall metal fence was placed around the entire premises.

The store was one of only two facilities that sold gasoline in central Greenlee County, with the other in Morenci, four miles from Clifton. Two other gas stations are located in southern Greenlee, both in Duncan, 30 miles from Clifton. 

Circle K has long been the only convenience store in Clifton. It has also been one of the longest existing businesses in town dating back to at least the late 1970s or early 1980s.

The store has been highly popular, patronized particularly by copper miners going to or returning from work at the giant open-pit copper mine in nearby Morenci. 

The store’s closing also  takes a big bite out of the town’s sales tax collection revenue.

Long-time Clifton resident Susan Breen said she believes that because of all the mine-related traffic that passes through Clifton and the store formerly being open 24 hours a day, it must have been something of a “gold mine” for the Circle K company.

Daily vehicle traffic in Clifton is about 6,000, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.