With less than a month until Kroger says the grocery store on Springfield’s south side will shut its doors, some in the community are working to stop the closure.
Some residents said they were blindsided by the news Friday when Kroger announced it would close the store on March 4.
“I was devastated. I grew up right there on West Southern — so walking distance to the store,” said life-long Springfield resident, Stephen Massey. “This is way more than just 2020 and the store leaving — but this can affect generations to come.”
The day after the news broke, Massey said he “got busy.”
He started an online petition, and in less than four days he’s already gathered just over 1,100 signatures and more than 300 comments about how the store’s closure would affect people for the worse.
“My concern was, I wanted to make sure some voices were heard,” he said.
Massey said some of the most impactful comments have been the shortest in length.
“People really need this store, mostly the elderly who have no means to get to any other grocery,” one petition-signer writes. “Please don’t add to our food desert,” says another.
Massey said he’d like to get 5,000 signatures and then present the petition to city and community leaders. He said at that point, together they would present the petition to Kroger’s corporate office.
“There can be something done about this,” he said. “We don’t have to give up. We can do something to make this Kroger see another side of this picture.”
City and community leaders also announced on Tuesday that they will host a community forum at 7 p.m. on Feb. 18 at The Dome (the former South High School), 700 S. Limestone Street.
Leaders said they will update community members about their latest talks with Kroger and possible solutions.
Many City of Springfield officials were taken off guard by the corporation’s news, after they say Kroger continually reassured them they had no plans to close the South Limestone store.
The closure of the store would leave the city’s south side with no full-service grocery store — the next closest would force people to travel to other sides of town.
“That is unacceptable,” said Springfield City Commissioner David Estrop on Tuesday.
Kroger in 2018 dropped plans to build a new $20 million Kroger Marketplace two miles south of the South Limestone store, saying the company was instead going to invest in new technology in its existing stores.
The Clark County Local Food Council estimates the closure will leave 37% of Springfield residents, about 22,000 people, without access to fresh foods in an area already considered low-income, low-access by the USDA.
The council is a collaborative organization with members from city and county government, non-profits, education institutions, and other community organizations that work to promote that access to local food can lead to other socioeconomic factors of life.
“If Kroger is willing to hand over ownership of the current building to another grocer, the negative impacts of their decision to close could be limited,” the statement continues on to say, “The Local Food Council is dedicated to having these conversations, finding solutions, and ensuring that all voices have a seat at the table.”
The online petition can be accessed and signed at www.ipetitions.com.
Anyone interested in attending the community forum on Feb. 18 should enter The Dome through the Career ConnectED side of the building.
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