For many in Orange Mound, the Kroger at 2269 Lamar Avenue connects residents to vitality. The 40,000-square-foot store offers access to healthy foods and a pharmacy. The store also contains a branch of Tri-State Bank.
The Lamar store is one of three locations Kroger will shutter on February 3, citing lagging profits.
"Closing stores is always a difficult business decision to make,” said Scot Hendricks, president of
Kroger Delta Division in a statement. “We review our store’s performance annually and unfortunately, despite our store team’s best efforts, profits steadily continued to decline at all three stores.
The Kroger locations in Memphis at 2269 Lamar Avenue, 1977 South Third Street and the Clarksdale, Miss. location at 870 South State Street contributed to financial losses of more than $6 million, Kroger said.
The Lamar location bears the lion share of that financial drain, having lost $2.7 million since 2014.
Community organizations, including the Orange Mound CDC and JUICE Orange Mound, have come together to protest Kroger's exit from the community and propose solutions.
Considering Orange Mound's significant elderly population that requires access to prescription medication, the loss of the Orange Mound Kroger bears heavily on the neighborhood.
As the Kroger at Lamar and Airways prepares to shutter on February 3, many of the shelves are unstocked. (Brandon Dahlberg)“It’s like they’re saying my neighborhood is not good enough for them and that’s what hurts my feelings," said Esther Cook, 52, at a community meeting hosted January 8 by JUICE Orange Mound.
"Instead of improving the store, they would rather shut it down. They have improved Krogers in other areas, why not ours?” she said. “We’re not good enough for them to be here, but we’re good enough for them to hope we will take our money further out.”
Between 2014 and 2016, the Kroger Delta Division invested more than $118 million in new stores and store improvements. The Lamar Avenue location hasn't received a facelift since it was built in 1985.
Cook said her relationship with Kroger ended when the entity announced on January 3 that it was shuttering the three stores.
“If Kroger isn’t good enough to stay here then our money shouldn’t go to them. I’ll go to Save-A-Lot,” she said.
A shopper browses the refrigereated section with a cart full of bottled water at the only Kroger in Orange Mound. (Brandon Dahlberg)
Orange Mound has a few other choices for food in the community, but none that offers the same "tier of service," according to Tiana Pyles, Executive Director of the Orange Mound Development Corporation.
Currently there is a Save-A-Lot on 2258 Lamar Avenue, across the street from the Lamar Kroger and an Aldi on 2287 Lamar Avenue, which is a three-minute drive from the Lamar Kroger.
The Landmark Farmer’s Market and Food Pantry is also located in Orange Mound on 2489 Carnes Avenue and provides fresh produce, on a smaller scale, to the community. Much of the produce is grown in the Landmark garden beside the facility.
Still, Orange Mound residents question whether the other options will be enough to supplement the loss of the Kroger.
At the January 8 meeting held at the Orange Mound Gallery, nonprofit JUICE Orange Mound began to develop a response.
“People are ready to do something, but we need to not jump the gun. We want to do something that’s in solidarity with other efforts,” said Britney Thornton, founder of JUICE Orange Mound. “We want to combine our interest so we can have a concentrated effort that is as effective as possible.”
The supply of decorated cakes is thinning at the Orange Mound Kroger. (Brandon Dahlberg)
Resident sentiments ranged from allowing Kroger to leave without any hassle to fighting for the store to stay to taking the opportunity to advocate for other options to replace the Lamar Kroger.
Ultimately the meeting led to the decision for JUICE to take a survey of the neighborhood to be able to present data to elected officials with input from residents.
“Our concern is that our politicians are making decisions about this without community input. JUICE wants to do what we do well which is canvas the neighborhood,” Thornton said.
“We feel that this is our best contribution to the movement, going door to door to ask the residents, what do you need? We want to give voice to the community,” she added.
Thornton said there is another meeting to continue the discussion of mobilizing on Tuesday, January 16 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Orange Mound Gallery on 2230 Lamar Avenue. The meeting is also a call for volunteers who would like to work with JUICE on January 20 to canvas the 117 streets of Orange Mound with surveys to get resident input.
“We recognize there are gaps in organizing and would like input from the NAACP, MATA, [Memphis Area Transit Authority] young professional groups like the Memphis Urban League as well as residents and community leaders from the Bethel Grove and Glenview neighborhoods to join us as well,” Thornton said.
Pyles said the Orange Mound Development Council reached out to Kroger over the years requesting updates to the store and community support, often with no response.
“It has not been a pleasant place to shop for a while. They have not been responsive for a couple of years now. I’m hopeful for the momentum that this is bringing about that it produces something more meaningful for us,” she said.
Kroger Delta Division and Save-A-Lot could not be reached for comment.
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