Neighbors Upset After News of Kroger Closings in SE Raleigh

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In a move that shocked residents of Southeast Raleigh, one of the nation’s leading grocery chains, Kroger, announced it is shuttering two stores in the area.

According to a press release from Kroger, the stores at 1610 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and 4111 New Bern Avenue have not been profitable.

“Although Kroger has continued to use its resources to improve each location, both have been unprofitable for the company,” the release said.

The closures were first reported in The News & Observer. Prior to the article’s publication on Nov. 18, no residents of the neighborhoods surrounding the stores were notified.

[media-credit id=2 align=”alignleft” width=”300″][/media-credit]Lifelong Southeast Raleigh resident Corey Branch saw his neighbors reeling from the information and saw he had to do something to help. He did some research and found out that Raleigh contains about 10 food deserts, four in Southeast and West Raleigh.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines food deserts as “areas that lack access to affordable fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lowfat milk, and other foods that make up the full range of a healthy diet.”

The Committee to Respond to Raleigh Food Deserts, headed by Branch, had its first community forum Monday at Martin Street Baptist Church to get community feedback on the store’s closing. The Rev. Earl C. Johnson, president of the Raleigh Wake Citizens Association, is the pastor at the church.

“When it first came to my attention, I was like ‘Why? What happened?’” Branch said. “Then, I wanted to focus on my community. I’m a native here, but it’s grown so much and changed so much that I wanted to make sure I had as much information as possible when we presented it to our citizens.”

Branch said during his investigation, he found the areas where the Kroger stores are leaving are already considered food deserts. With the grocery chain pulling out, the situation may get worse.

Community Feedback
The meeting drew more than 100 residents. A quick poll of hands at the beginning showed that roughly half regularly used one or both of the locations, and that no one received any information prior to The News & Observer article.

The new committee invited Raleigh City Council Councilman Eugene Weeks, Wake County Commissioner James West and North Carolina House Representative Yvonne Holley to offer their insights into the community challenge, as well as land developer Craig Ralph, who owns the shopping center at MLK.

Weeks said he tried repeatedly to contact Kroger and was denied. A letter from Mayor Nancy McFarlane sent Nov. 27 has gone unanswered, he said.

After the opening statements by the politicians and developer, residents were invited to voice their concerns. Many said the quality of the produce as well as the customer service at the locations was not up to par, so they chose to shop elsewhere.

“When I go into the store, and the produce is wilted, and the produce looks worse than what is donated to the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, I’m not going to buy that produce,” said Kia Baker, Inter-Faith Food Shuttle’s Director of Food Recovery & Distribution. “But there are others of us who don’t have that option.”

She added that the response needed to be finding a grocery store that kept its store clean, its food fresh and its employees trained well.

“I don’t buy the idea that we’re not buying product,” Baker said, “But the question is, can you sell the product?”

Developer Ralph said add there are up to three other grocers eyeing the property Kroger will vacate, but due to business confidentiality, he was unable to disclose which ones.

After attendees voiced their grievances, Johnson said this meeting was just the first of seveeral to address community needs in Southeast Raleigh.

“We did this with the YWCA when it closed down the street,” he said. “We had no follow-up. We got together one meeting, but it went nowhere. My hope is that we can bring community leaders together, business leaders together, the landlords of Kroger together to try to sit down and figure out where to go.”

5 thoughts on “Neighbors Upset After News of Kroger Closings in SE Raleigh

  1. the only reason that kroger stores are closing those two stores is because of shrink , shoplifting is the major problem ,they cannot disclose that because of legal repercussion…

  2. Why should local neighbors be made aware of a company removing two locations? They have a business to run and profit margins are of great concern in these difficult economic times. Do they need permission to stay?

    People might be surprised, but Kroger has been trying to pull out of the Carolinas for almost 10 years. These are the two least profitable stores in the state, with high theft and low profit margins, if any. The Kroger on MLK was only there because the city practically begged the company to make a location there, giving them a steal for the price of the land and building. With Kroger trying to sell off to competition they need to eliminate these stores to make their numbers look better as they sell off. It’s actually a pretty savvy business move. I doubt Kroger will even be around in a year anywhere, Harris Teeter, Publix, and Bi-Lo are all trying to bid them out.

    There are at least two Food Lions within a mile of each Kroger. With Food Lion closing down 300 locations in the next year or two it is likely that a few of these will go as well.

    ‘“I don’t buy the idea that we’re not buying product,” Baker said, “But the question is, can you sell the product?”’ -You’ve got to be kidding me?!?!

    The neighborhoods surrounding these stores don’t give the companies enough business to support them, and again, theft is incredibly high in these locations. The produce is bad in these stores, for obvious reasons: people aren’t buying it. It isn’t as if the grocery chains are shipping in bad produce, it goes bad because no one pays for it. You can’t expect them to keep buying fresh food that just wilts, again, think of profit margins. You cannot force people to buy groceries, they do or they don’t.

    The biggest concern should be prescriptions. Without Kroger where will people in these neighborhoods go to get prescriptions filled?

  3. I can only speak about the New Bern Ave Kroger’s. I hardly call this area a Food Desert. There is a Walmart and two Food Lions’s within a mile or two of the Kroger’s. I think the reason this store is closing is simple, very few customers at the Kroger’s and the Walmart a block away is packed. I think the prices are better at the Walmart store so more people shop there.

  4. Scott said it exactly right… there is a Super Walmart within walking distance of the Kroger on New Bern and a Food Lion down the street. There is also a Food Lion a short distantce from the Kroger on MLK. These concerned citizens should take a different approach, which is to clean up their neighborhood and create a more welcomng environment for business. I’ve been to all of these stores. The area is crime ridden. Cable and utility theft is everywhere. The grocery stores in the neighborhoods constantly fight shoplifting and gang graffiti covers the bathroom walls. Take a trip to these stores and spend an hour or two, then you will understand why they are closing. None of these “community activists” talk about the relation of “food desert” and crime and blight in the area.

  5. I’m very sorry to see these Krogers closing–especially the MLK one. (It was decently convenient for the eastern half of downtown.)
    But I think the best way for the city to ensure that good grocery stores can survive in these areas is to get more dense, mixed-income housing in the residential areas there. The areas do not have enough middle and upper-middle income homes to create a good customer base for anything that isn’t dirt cheap.
    The city needs to get real serious in encouraging more middle income housing developments (preferably mixed-use density), in southeast Raleigh to diversity the income levels so that it isn’t always considered by the retail powers-that-be as a “poor area” without viable customers. Once you do that, a Kroger or even a Harris Teeter or Target would make a profit there!