By Kevin Williams
My midsized Rust Belt Ohio town has a variety of grocery stores: Aldi's, Walmart, Meijer, Kroger and a local chain called Marsh. There used to be some IGA and Super Valus in town but they have either shut down or been replaced by Save-A-Lots, so there is no shortage of places to buy food. I'm partial to Kroger and Meijer. Marsh used to be an upscale destination market but is now dumpy with sky high prices.
The "super store" we know today wasn't always so super. I wrote last week about discoveries I can make in my own hometown. One such is a brick building that used to stock bread and milk. A small non-descript brick building on a street in my hometown is now a storefront church today. But what did this small but sturdy building once hold? A Kroger. During the 1920s and 1930s it was a Kroger grocery store. I'm not sure how long that store operated, but Kroger eventually moved to a larger strip mall on the south side of our town. Kroger anchored it on one side and a Hills Department store on the other. The parking lot was always packed as this city's once vibrant middle class feasted on the amenities offered.
Hills eventually folded and Kroger, sometime in the 1980s or early 90s, built a big store in field near the interstate. It was a free-standing store that was quite modern for its time. But about five years ago that store was razed and replaced with a gleaming new "Kroger Marketplace" on the other side of the parking lot. And the razed store was replaced with...a parking lot for the new Marketplace.
And, 30 years from now, I'm sure Kroger will build a 5-football field sized megastore somewhere else.
Our freestanding Meijer store in our hometown was once crammed into a tiny strip mall before it, too, finally broke free sometime in the 1980s. That was a huge event in our town with lines of cars snaking down streets for miles on its opening night.
SIGH, is it just me or is bigger not necessarily better? Don't get me wrong, I like our Kroger Marketplace with their mega-salad bar and organic offerings, but there is also something to be said for just a small neighborhood grocer that you can just run in and out of...