Wed04162014

Greater Metro

Kroger keeps its word with $5 million Whitehaven upgrade

Kroger-600

A $5 million remodeling of Kroger's Whitehaven store at 1212 E. Shelby Drive already was being greeted as a welcome addition a full 24 hours before the official announcement on Thursday (May 23).

The store will remain open during the six-month renovation, which started this week.

"It's perfect timing. It needs modernizing, and they need to be aware of the younger people in the area," said Sabrina Simmons, who was getting gas at the recently opened Fuel Center on the Kroger lot Wednesday morning.

"For instance, you have Whitehaven High School less than five minutes away. They need to come up with displays, specials and products that they would like. Less of the sugars, candies and sweets; more healthier foods."

Simmons was traveling with Ashanti Carr. Both attend The LeMoyne Owen College and both are from Whitehaven.

"My family used to shop with Kroger when it was on Finley," said Carr. "I'm just glad they moved the gas station here. We get a lot of deals on gas. All the Krogers should have them."

The remodel is part of a $100 million refurbishment of the 40 stores Kroger's owns in the Greater Memphis area (115 in the Delta Division, including 70 Fuel Centers). A new store is also planned for the Midtown location on Union, and a $2 million redo is slated for the store at Poplar and Cleveland.

Kroger's extensive market footprint chaps the hides of some consumer critics who voice the concern that the grocery giant exercises monopoly power over the area's consumer food needs. Cassius Watkins, however, is not among them.

"It's a good thing," said Watkins of the plans to remodel the Whitehaven store. "I've always done my grocery shopping with them. For a long time Whitehaven didn't have a quality food store and they get the job done."

Kroger spokesperson Joe Bell teamed up with Whitehaven-area Councilman Harold Collins to announce the Kroger remodel project.

"This is going to be a wall to wall remodel. About the only thing that we're not going to touch is the location of the cash registers and the front of the store," said Bell. " Everything else we're going to expand, move, increase variety, install new casing, add a sushi bar in the deli area, move the pharmacy from one side of the store to another, and create an entirely new décor and atmosphere.

"We're apologizing to customers in advance because it's going to make it tough to shop while we're remodeling, but it's going to bring a great improvement for the store."

In conjunction with the remodel announcement and noting the new Kroger Fuel Center, Bell said, "We will be announcing that you get double fuel points starting this weekend."

Collins said Kroger is keeping a commitment to redo the store.

"However, we did not know they were doing it to this magnitude. To invest $5 million dollars is right now the single largest private investment in Whitehaven in quite sometime," said Collins.

"This investment tells Memphis they are committed to Whitehaven and want to be a part of the resurgence of this great community."

On Wednesday morning, store manager Gerald Jones and assistant manager Sonny Paschall moved about the store as work tied to the remodeling progressed. After more than a year of preparations, the two said they are ready for the changeover, including any difficulties that should arise.

"The community is really excited, and they deserve it too," Jones said.

Back at the Fuel Center, Simmons offered Kroger some consumer advice.

"People in Whitehaven don't follow trends just for the sake of it," Simmons said.

"Whitehaven is a family-oriented area. We like quality, but not just for the flashiness. When it's flashier it just drives the price up, but it doesn't make the product better.

"Me, I'm a student, so I work hard to watch a dollar and I coupon shop. ... I'm fueling up now on my mother's discount points."