What’s Up at the Disco Kroger?

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 “We prefer to buy the same items as the proletariat — it’s just that we buy rarefied versions of these items that members of the working class would consider preposterous…We’ll buy potatoes, but we won’t buy an Idaho spud. We’ll select one of those miniature potatoes of distinction that grow only in certain soils of northern France. When we need lettuce, we will choose only from among those flimsy cognoscenti lettuces that taste so bad on sandwiches. The beauty of such a strategy is that it allows us to be egalitarian and pretentious at the same time.”

The Lexington Herald-Leader reported this week that the Disco Kroger is exploring “rooftop parking for Euclid Avenue store.” The somewhat existential photo cutline that accompanied the story observes, “Cars now park at the Euclid Avenue Kroger in front of the store. Someday, parking might be on the roof of the grocery.” (Actually, there’s current parking in the front, and on both sides — and it is never enough, despite the fact that the store serves a significant pedestrian and cycling populace, many of whom frequently tie up their dogs out front, which seems like a bad idea.) 

The rooftop parking possibility is one of a few being explored as a space-saving/expansion measure that might allow the store to double its current square footage.

The Rooftop Parking headline was quickly followed by a Herald-Leader report that Trader Joe’s might be evaluating a Nicholasville Road location in Lexington (near an existing Kroger in Regency, and not far from the Whole Foods in Lexington Green, and Good Foods on Southland Drive).

Lexington residents have been begging for a Trader Joe’s and some two-buck Chuck since the old County Market closed at Lexington Mall (which would’ve been a perfect location for it). This would add another layer to the already competitive landscape populated by Fresh Market in Lansdowne, and the newly opened Shorty’s (on Short Street), which offers convenience and diversity to downtown professionals who need quick pick-ups for lunch or dinner. (None of these entries solve downtown’s considerable food desert problems — or Hamburgistan’s need for precocious miniature vegetables — but that’s a different story.)

When Kroger began buying up the adjacent property at Marquis Avenue in late 2009, rumors surfaced that the Euclid Avenue location might be transformed into one of the chain’s flagship Fresh Fare Krogers. (In the spirit of full disclosure, Ace started that rumor.)

Note, this pre-Renovation ice cream wasn’t even marked down

Disco Kroger has long been the redheaded stepchild of the Kroger empire in Lexington, and recent improvements (Great Harvest Bread at the end of the frozen organics Kashi cooler! Fage as far as the eye can see!) have been welcomed with near delirium by customers in dire need of fingerling potatoes.

Although it clearly serves the students and campus area (which dictates that a significant amount of square footage be devoted to beer), it is also walking distance to the surrounding Hollywood, Woodland Park, Ashland Park, and Chevy Chase neighborhoods, and a quick drive for downtowners—whose residents have previously had to drive to Krolex (Kroger on Romany) or Fresh Market for everything from olive bars to a deli that stocks anything much beyond Jell-O salad. It has become increasingly reliant on “U-Scan,” with fewer and fewer checkout lanes open, serving more and more customers. (Here’s the official Ace Editorial Position on the U-Scan: if they expect you to scan and bag your own groceries, they can issue you a Kroger paycheck.)

The Euclid location is not suited to the super-Kroger concept that has bloomed on Richmond Road (Growger), and Beaumont (Death Star Kroger) where customers can buy everything from toilet paper to earrings and sofas. Several banks and a nearby senior center would have to be bulldozed to free up the room for that.

This time last year, the store suspended its 24-hour-status briefly (closing at 11 pm and opening at 7 am for part of the summer) during ongoing renovations, and at Christmas, they briefly killed the salad bar while they rebuilt it (into a newer, smaller version, which is still inexplicably stocked with the type of macaroni salads no one has eaten since 1974). The soups, meanwhile, migrated from the salad bar over to the Deli.

What’s next? Is more change coming? Yes We Can?

Atlanta’s Disco Kroger successfully transformed into a Fresh Fare Kroger in 2008, with “$1,000 temperature-controlled wines, fresh organic treats and chef-made entrees.” Kroger’s site says their Fresh Fare stores “feature expanded organics, gourmet pastry shoppe, bulk natural foods, gourmet meats and cheeses, fresh sushi.”  Everyone knows Lexington likes construction projects with a superfluous “E” added to the end, and all the promotional materials tout “Shoppes” in their Fresh Fares.

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution‘s photo gallery of their transformation from Disco Kroger to Fresh Fare, “if you need an exotic fruit like Buddha’s hand citron, shown here, you’ll find it.” (Who doesn’t need an exotic fruit like Buddha’s hand citron?)

Although the Disco Kroger has been aging badly for some time, and the surrounding neighborhood is well-positioned to support something a good deal tonier, even in the current economy, hopefully the renovations won’t stamp out its current neighborhood “charms.”

Or, as The Plug wrote wistfully of Atlanta’s Murder Kroger,

“Despite its flaws, Murder Kroger is part of what gives Downtown Atlanta its unpredictable character. We tolerate it, because it’s ours. I’d even go so far as to say that Murder Kroger needs to be preserved, much like Graceland, so that future generations can witness a train wreck frozen in time. Heaven forbid that Murder Kroger ever clean up its act, because the number of good stories that Atlantans tell each other will surely plummet. ‘I shopped at Sellout Kroger. I found the popcorn right away.’”

Kroger has invited input from locals and neighbors as to what would best serve the Euclid Avenue neighborhood. Two words: Fresh Fare.  (Also: maybe post a Dog Nanny at the door.)

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