Wellington Bella's Market shelves bare... again

Residents drive 20-mile round trip for food

WELLINGTON, Colo. -

Inside the only grocery store in Wellington, a 7NEWS hidden camera video shows bare shelves and frustrated shoppers.

"The shelves are very empty," said Christine Trostel as she walked out of the Bella's Market. "I just came out with a gallon of milk and it was one of the last ones."

Other shoppers left without finding the food they needed.

"Pretty much all the deli meat is gone," said Melissa Ruppelt, who was told it has been almost a month since a truck delivery, meaning a 20-mile round trip to Ft. Collins to get the rest of her groceries. "The guy at the counter, he's like, 'None of the employees can do anything about it. It's all the owner.'"

It's not the first time this town has had problems with the owner, Sam Mancini.

Last summer, 7NEWS investigated the Denver businessman accused of starving small towns across the state, following a 2012 bankruptcy and numerous legal battles.

Soon after the 7NEWS investigation, Mancini sold six of his eight Bella's Markets, but not the one in Wellington.

"I get asked every day, 'What's going on? Why can't the town do anything?'" said Jack Brinkhoff, the mayor of Wellington. "We can't force him to stock the shelves. So, it's unfortunate."

Brinkhoff said the town of 7,500 is growing by at least 500 people a year and needs a real grocery store.

So, 7NEWS Sam Mancini to answer questions about why the store is in its current state.

In two emails, however, Mancini refused to answer our questions, replying, "I understand your intentions and they are shameful."

Brinkhoff said several businesses have expressed interest in buying the Bella's in Wellington, but that Mancini had expressed no interest in selling it.

"If somebody would come in there and run a market right, this town would support it, I know they would," said Brinkhoff, who has been blasted for encouraging people to shop local because of what's happening at Bella's. "I understand their frustration."

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