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Trader Joe’s, King Soopers and more



Trader Joe's, King Soopers and more

Too few parking spaces, long queues for open spaces, cramped designs that cannot handle the crowds — Drivers in the Denver area are bracing for headaches as they try to navigate the most stressful parking lots in the city and beyond.

JS set out to find the worst parking spots in metro Denver, with the help of more than 100 people who voiced their opinions in an informal survey on social media platforms X and Facebook. Within Denver’s city limits, older central neighborhoods like Capitol Hill — where space is at a premium — are home to parking lots that have been widely criticized.

But that doesn’t mean suburban communities are immune to precarious parking situations.

A bad parking experience can affect drivers’ loyalty to a company, an expert says. Consumers are constantly making judgments about brands, so “parking is one of the crucial elements for brands to get right,” says Brent Coker, a marketing lecturer at the University of Melbourne.

“Everything that happens to a consumer shapes their attitude, which determines their future behavior,” including purchasing decisions made minutes later, the Australian said. “If the parking lot is bad, yes, it will give someone a negative attitude.”

These are the parking lots that stand out most in Denver:

1. Trader Joe’s urban locations

Grocery store chain Trader Joe’s has two Denver locations in older neighborhoods, with small lots challenging motorists in Capitol Hill on Logan Street and in Hale on Colorado Boulevard.

“It’s no secret that Trader Joe’s parking lots are a nightmare,” said customer Rob Toftness, 42. “When you add the cramped conditions and the inability of drivers to behave like adults, you have a tough recipe. ”

On a rainy Monday afternoon, shoppers were not deterred from doing their shopping at the Capitol Hill store. They stepped in front of cars waiting for openings in the parking lot. Drivers tried to squeeze into tight spaces, parking haphazardly before rushing into the store themselves.

Four cars lined up in the left lane on Logan Street, their turn signals flashing as they waited to enter.

For cyclists and pedestrians, however, the store is a breeze to navigate. Toftness, a Five Points resident, chooses to ride his bike along the 7th Avenue bike path and then locks it in the bike rack while he shops.

In an episode of the company’s podcast: Inside Trader Joe’s, co-host Matt Sloan said, “We don’t purposely open stores with the most ridiculous parking lot in the world.” Trader Joe’s lot size is based on the store’s square footage, with the chain’s locations often smaller than the average supermarket, especially if they are squeezed into older neighborhoods.

“Stores of a more recent vintage — more recently opened stores — have larger parking lots if we can get them,” Sloan added.

Trader Joe’s spokesperson Nakia Rohde declined to comment further.

A customer leaves a King Soopers supermarket on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024, in Capitol Hill in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

2. King Soopers in Capitol Hill

The King Soopers supermarket on East Ninth Avenue has local customers lamenting the amount of time it can take to secure a parking spot in the main lot.

Those who choose to park in the overflow area are also inconvenienced, as the anti-theft wheel locks on shopping carts at the edges of the main area catch, forcing customers to carry their shopping through a busy street. On Monday afternoon, nine cars sat idle in the parking lot as drivers tried to park or back up.

Kara King, 33, said she was never able to get a parking spot on her first run.

“You have to constantly walk around the lot, waiting for one to open,” said the Speer neighbor. “Otherwise you can park on the street and drag your groceries to your car.”

King Soopers spokesperson Jessica Trowbridge did not respond to requests for comment.

3. Whole Foods Market in Cherry Creek

At the Whole Foods Market on East First Avenue in Cherry Creek, much of the criticism from customers has focused on the lot design.

“Whole Foods in Cherry Creek is terrible,” said customer Krista Chism, 48. “All the areas are designed for compact cars.”

She called the lanes “too narrow,” which increases the risk of hitting another vehicle parked behind her car while reversing. When she visits, “I seriously weigh the cost of paying for parking versus the potential cost if someone hits my car,” the Park Hill resident said.

This Whole Foods location has long been infamous, with Westword calling it “uniquely the worst parking lot in town.”

Whole Foods’ media team did not respond to a request for comment.

4. Denver Botanical Gardens

Visiting the Denver Botanical Gardens often suffer from parking problems on busy weekends, despite a special parking garage. The gardens are most heavily visited by guests during events including Blossoms of Light, Glow at the Gardens, the Spring Plant Sale and the Summer Concert Series, said Erin Bird, associate director of communications. Popular times for visitors also include warm, sunny weekends and days off in the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District.

Bird said representatives understood visitors’ parking frustrations and urged guests to take extra time to secure parking in the garage or in the surrounding neighborhood.

“The Gardens multi-level car park has been designed to maximize the limited space we have due to our location, adjacent to city parks in an established residential area,” she said. “Timed access has alleviated some of the parking pressure.”

Denver's flagship REI store on the...
Denver’s flagship REI store on the South Platte River, pictured on September 11, 2012, has a front lot (shown), an underground garage and additional lots. (Photo by John Leyba/JS)

5. REI Co-op’s flagship store

REI Co-Op Denver’s flagship store on Platte Street near downtown is the source of persistent parking problems, including tight spaces, incidents of bike theft and the price to pay to park for long shopping trips (after a 90-minute grace period).

Customers say the outdoor co-op attracts the most people during the weekend, but that doesn’t mean the ground-level parking lots don’t fill up during the week, too. On a recent Wednesday evening, the street parking lot was also mostly occupied as a few customers walked across the busy street to the former Denver Tramway Powerhouse building that now houses the retail chain.

The REI store deserves 4.5 out of 5 stars on Google reviews, but at least twenty one-star reviews mention parking issues. The designs of one above-ground parking space and the underground garage are considered cramped. One reviewer wrote: “The store itself is really great. But please fix the parking lot.”

The REI media team did not respond to a request for comment.

What about the suburbs?

Outside of Denver, the metro area’s ample parking also attracts shoppers and visitors. Here are some notable ones:

Cost code: The warehouse club chain’s locations in Lone Tree, on Park Meadows Center Drive, and in Arvada, on Wadsworth Boulevard, mainly draw complaints about nerve-wracking parking lots. Costco stores are also being confronted elsewhere: on Reddit, a thread asking the question “What is your Costco’s parking like?‘ has generated hundreds of responses. Objections include waiting for a spot during busy shopping hours and aggression in parking lots, such as honking, cursing and even car accidents. The Costco media team did not respond to a request for comment.

Construction workers pour concrete in the upper parking lot of Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater on Feb. 6, 2024 in Morrison.  (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/JS)
Construction workers pour concrete in the upper parking lot of Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater on Feb. 6, 2024 in Morrison. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/JS)