On March 15, 2014 Lexington’s historic Disco Kroger on Euclid Avenue will close its doors. Soon thereafter, it will be demolished and a new version will be erected in its place with olive bars and rooftop parking. One UK doc reassured his friends on facebook, “As the sadness of losing my favorite Kroger for a year settles in like the UK Basketball season settles in for many of my neighbors and coworkers, rest assured our favorite check-out-girl Cara will be at the Richmond Road Kroger.”
Unlike most of the suburban Krogers, this one is personal.
Or as one reader asked, “Parking will be impossible at the Romany Krogers. What would Ace suggest for an agoraphobic in a ’91 Camry? I guess Meijers in Hamburg, or God forbid, venturing onto Nicholasville Road.”
Disco Kroger has long been the redheaded stepchild of the Kroger empire in Lexington, and even modest improvements (Great Harvest Bread at the end of the frozen organics Kashi cooler!) have been welcomed with near delirium by customers in dire need of fingerling potatoes. Long loved in spite of itself, another reader suggested, “Good riddance. The store sucks. Bring me a proper cheese shop and be done with it.” And still another asked, “Is this the Kroger on Euclid? Is it closing?”
Although it clearly serves the students and campus area (which dictates that a significant amount of square footage be devoted to beer), the store is also walking distance to the surrounding Hollywood, Woodland Park, Ashland Park, and Chevy Chase neighborhoods, and a quick drive for downtowners. In recent years, 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 store and pharmacy also serves a significant elderly population and is the closest grocery for many Lexington residents who live in nearby food deserts. (Kroger announced today that it would operate a shuttle from the piggy bank bus stop across the street to its Chinoe store, where Euclid prescriptions will be transferred.)
Whatever springs up in its place, it seems unlikely it will spark the fierce sense of neighborhood belonging the admittedly pitiful 1976 structure has always engendered. 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.’”
Yes. Yes. A thousand times yes.
Disco Kroger: Thunderdome
BY BRIAN S. POWERS
Built in 1976, Disco Kroger is getting major surgery at a spry 38 years old. According to legend, Disco Kroger earned the “disco” appellation due to being the first 24-hour Kroger in the Lexington area (and because “Techno Kroger” and “Dubstep Kroger” were still years from invention). In celebration of the phoenix-like death and rebirth of Disco Kroger, we’ve collected memories, facts, statistics, and out-and-out lies regarding the popular grocery location. Disco Kroger is one of twelve Krogers (Krogeri? Krogerae? Krogeriti?) in Lexington-Fayette, and one of only seven to be open around the clock. (Regency, Tates Creek, Leestown, Richmond Road, Boston Road, and Bryan Station are open 24/7. Regency’s pharmacy is also open 24 hours.) The closest Kroger location to Disco Kroger during the closure/reconstruction is at Romany Road, 1.2 miles away by car, or only 1.1 miles away by drunken collegiate stumbling. Unfortunately,
the Romany location is only open until midnight, so customers should stockpile refrigerated cookie dough and moist towelettes accordingly. According to the Kroger website, the Romany location doesn’t list the following amenities that the Euclid location boasts: “Chef,” “Pharmacy,” “Salad Bar,” or “U-scan.” Both locations list “Service Meat” as a store feature. Your guess is as good as ours. (UPDATE: Romany and Chinoe are now open 24 hours to accommodate the Disco Kroger refugees throughout the rebuild.)
The current building has 128 parking spaces and will expand to 205. 121 of the parking spaces of the new building will be on the roof of the structure, as Kroger apparently anticipates the perfection of flying car technology in 2015 as predicted by the movie Back to the Future Part II.
Disco Kroger currently has 135 employees, which will expand to 200 when the new building opens. Note the number of parking spaces listed previously – should New Disco Kroger (or NDK for short, and Fort Kroger according to some) require a full staff meeting, the remaining five parking spots will be given to customers who emerge victorious from a post-apocalyptic-style cage fight a la Thunderdome.
Disco Kroger currently carries 80,000 unique items. The expansion will add another 50,000 to the store. 2,000 of these are likely to be individual cotton swabs, which you will still shove deep in your ear canal despite the explicit warnings on the back not to do so.
Kroger stores in Lexington range between 38,000 and 125,000 ft2, while most newly-constructed stores are approximately 90,000 ft2. Disco Kroger is currently the smallest Kroger store in Lexington at 38,000 ft2. After the expansion, it will be closer in size to the Kroger at Tates Creek Center at 86,000 ft2, although it will appear smaller due to an underground preparation area that measures 22,000 ft2. Readers should be aware that it is not the size of one’s Kroger that matters, but rather how one uses it.
Rupp Arena, also opened in 1976, has an official capacity of 23,500. While a call placed to Disco Kroger to find the store capacity left several confused employees searching in vain for a fire marshal’s notice, anecdotal evidence suggests that Rupp has the advantage. Both venues are slated for renovation, although it’s anyone’s guess as to which improved building will host a better Elton John concert.
New Disco Kroger will be built to conform to Energy Star standards, while the current building was built in a simpler time and, the author speculates, runs entirely on the labors of small, sad-eyed children in giant hamster wheels.
Disco Kroger began buying up the property surrounding the store in 2009, setting off a wave of speculation that the Disco Kroger might be converting into a Fresh Fare location – an upscale version with a focus on organic food and unreasonably-priced wines designed to compete with the likes of Whole Foods and The Fresh Market. This wild and baseless speculation (started and perpetuated almost entirely by Ace Weekly) unfortunately did not bear (organic, gluten-free) fruit.
In 2010, Disco Kroger briefly lost its “Disco” status when it cut back from 24-hour service for renovations, thus leaving bewildered customers to speculate on where, exactly, they would get sour cream, ice cream, and hemorrhoid cream at 2 am within walking distance to campus.
Sadly, the moniker “Disco Kroger” is not exclusive to the beloved Euclid store.
An Atlanta Kroger also lays claim to the name after the store was built on the site of a former nightclub, and a store in Houston has seized the designation for itself. The opinion of some locals is that this is an attempt by our southern brethren to capture the residual Lexingtonian chic from our clearly superior store. Calls not placed to the other locations have not been returned for comment.
Atlanta’s Disco Kroger in Buckhead underwent a $5.5 million transformation to a Fresh Fare and re-opened post-renovation with a gleaming Disco Ball in its atrium. We can dream.
SCANDAL AND GROCERIES
BY Stuart Hurt
Ahhhh Euclid Kroger!
The grocery of choice for campus and neighborhoods alike.
Starting my tenure in Euclid Kroger in 1992, I’ve pushed a shopping cart or two to my nearby living quarters, and had many a “day after the party” walks into Euclid to get the much needed Tylenol and frozen pizza.
It’s also been a great spot for the fast balloon needed for a birthday you forgot, emergency deodorant and just plain grocery fill in.
Euclid Kroger is the Kroger everyone loves to hate, but we know you use it…we’ve seen you in your shades and pulled down ball cap scurrying through at a rabbit’s pace.
We’ve also seen those at a glacial pace, wasting time, nosing around and purchasing nothing.
I welcome the new Kroger and another 20 years of stories, scandal and groceries.
It Served Me Well
by Janet Moody Cowen
What can I say about a store that I used for over two and a half decades.
It served me well, even if I had to watch out for the excited UK fans pushing their way to the beer aisle.
They served me well through two historic ice storms.
They served me well even without a designer olive bar and specialty coffee shop.
They were the hometown corner grocery that did a great job.
I loved saying hello to all of the employees through all of the years.
I liked that I could go into that store blindfolded and know where everything was located.
Although I didn’t go in there blindfolded often.
I will miss it, because they served me well!
Location Location Location
By Jason McKinley Williams
The elegies rising from throughout 40502 for the Disco Kroger are steeped in irony. The people I’ve heard most loudly lamenting the old building at 704 E. Euclid are also the people most likely to sanctimoniously browbeat others for failing to patronize local businesses.
As I am one such person, I perceive this irony quite acutely.
Those of us who live in the neighborhoods surrounding Disco Kroger zealously support our local merchants. We get our books from Morris, our garden hoses from Chevy Chase Hardware, our shoes from John’s. I even have dear friends who tirelessly and exclusively rent DVDs from Premiere Home Video, and speak of a Netflix membership as some sort of Faustian bargain.
Yet, to listen to these despondent neighbors in discussions last summer, one might believe old Mrs. Kroger’s corner grocery had finally lost the good fight, and succumbed to the big box stores. We are, let’s remember, talking about a massive corporation, and one of over 2000 supermarkets it has spread throughout the United States.
Why, then, the nostalgia?
The shabby, little store happens to be in just the right location.
The grocery store is a neighborhood’s common space. We may buy our beers at CCI or The Beer Trappe, may take our dinner at Athenian Grill or Billy’s, but we get the bulk of our food at our nearest supermarket. And the Disco Kroger’s location puts it at the confluence of neighborhoods with a quite eclectic set of folks. You have undergraduates, many quite obviously grocery shopping for the first time in their lives. You have graduate students, who commonly try to purchase Epicurus’s shopping list on Diogenes’s budget. And then you have an odd selection of professors and other homeowners who—for a price that could have purchased a five-bedroom new brick home on the south side—opt for a 1920s bungalow whose drafty windows swirl billowing clouds of lead paint dust and radon.
These groups, as a rule, will happily forego a little convenience as long as the tradeoff is uniqueness and character. Certainly no other self-respecting supermarket in Lexington has dingy-looking concrete floors, a parking lot that typically resembles a demolition derby, or an anti-shoplifting alarm that angrily blares randomly at every sixth customer. But the Euclid Kroger’s patrons love it not in spite of these deficiencies, but because of them. For all it lacks, our place has character in spades.
At other Krogers, do you regularly discuss Faulkner with the young woman at the checkout? Do you inspect your tomatoes to the strains of ‘We are the World’ or ‘Undercover Angel?’” Do you get to see five brash, brawny freshman shout and fist-bump about “firing up some steaks,” and then get to watch them wilt, shedding all bravado as they scrutinize top round and shoulder roasts, realizing, at last, that they have no idea what cut of meat one might grill?
Do you see, as I did last week, two young men sitting on the concrete tables outside the store, gleefully devouring eight pieces of fried chicken from the deli without silverware, side items, or drinks? Of course not. That’s bizarre and unsophisticated and of indeterminate cleanliness. And those are precisely the qualities we admired so much in our Kroger.
Because I believe it is the location and patrons that make the Kroger so interesting, I believe its oddness will—in some small sense—survive the renovation. In December, after it’s too cold to walk there anymore, the store will re-open, with all the latest conveniences and contrivances: rooftop parking, shopping cart escalators, electrical systems that don’t spontaneously burst into flames, bag-recycling hovercraft robots, and whatever else was in that fanciful pitch to the council. But no matter how beautifully appointed the aisles are, they will seem more familiar when overflowing with the metric ton of ramen that UK Students go through in a week. The aging hippies and sulking hipsters will soon return to berate the customer service desk about not having enough human cashiers and the environmental impact of plastic bags.
But, sadly, in this new, gleaming store, the uniqueness that we latched onto will be lost. In its place, a shopping experience indistinguishable from any other around Lexington, or Columbus, or Nashville. A lot less to laugh about or tweet about. A lot less that’s just ours.
When Will the Disco Kroger Close?
The Kroger on Euclid will close March 15. Inventory and personnel will be re-homed to other stores, with the teardown to begin in early April. The new store is optimistically slated to open before Christmas 2014.
Variances and zone changes were approved by the Planning Commission and ultimately, city council, that is allowing the Kroger on Euclid to re-develop under big box / shopping center zoning. The new plan, which will include rooftop parking, a front door shift away from Euclid, and an increased footprint that will take the store almost to the curb, was opposed by some neighbors, who dubbed the new design Fort Kroger.
The store had been aging and deteriorating for some time, sustaining a few sporadic bursts of renovation in recent years, none of which posititioned it to compete appropriately with the opening of the earnest and affordable Trader Joe’s on Nicholasville Road, or the snootier Fresh Market on Tates Creek.
Prescriptions at the Kroger on Euclid pharmacy will be transferred to the Kroger on Chinoe, and Kroger plans to operate a daily shuttle from the Piggy Bank bus stop (across the street) to the Chinoe Kroger. Shuttles begin at noon on March 16 leaving Euclid, and are scheduled to run hourly until 7 pm daily.
This article also appears on page 6 of the March 6, 2013 issue of Ace.
Subscribe to the Ace e-dition for Lexington news, arts, culture, and entertainment, delivered to your inbox every Thursday morning.