Springfield shopper on Kroger store closing plan: ‘I was shocked’

Kroger will close one of its five Springfield grocery stores early next year, citing lagging sales at that site and the need to reinvest in other parts of its business.

The chain will close its location at 2300 N. Limestone St. early next year and has decided not to renew its lease on the property, said Erin Rolfes, a spokeswoman for the Kroger Co. About 88 employees work at the store now, and she said they will be able to work at other area locations.

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“This particular store has not been making money for the past several years so we just decided to close it,” Rolfes said.

However, she said Kroger is investing about a total of about $10 million in two other stores at 2728 E. Main St. and 2989 Derr Road. Those stores are located within a few miles of the North Limestone location and will be able to serve customers who currently shop at that store, she said. The North Limestone Street location will remain open until renovations are completed at the Derr Road and East East Main Street stores, she said.

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Kroger also operates locations at 965 N. Bechtle Ave. and 1822 S. Limestone St.

She said the company’s investment in the remaining locations in Springfield shows the company is still committed to the city.

“Kroger is still committed to Springfield as a region,” Rolfes said.

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Several customers said they were surprised at the news and might shop at other chains if it’s more convenient.

“If you’re trying to get in and get out, this is the best location if you’re from this area,” said Marshall Young, a Springfield man who has shopped at the North Limestone store for several years. “I could commute to those other areas but then again it’s an inconvenience.”

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Gabriel Brown, who was shopping at the store Tuesday, said he might consider Walmart as the next best option.

“I was shocked,” Brown said when told of the chain’s decision. “A lot of people come here to shop.”

Earlier this year, the company said it was scrapping previous plans to build a roughly $20 million Marketplace grocery store in Springfield's southern corridor. At that time, Rolfes said the company was instead devoting resources to boosting technology and making improvements in existing stores.

Those issues also played a role in the company’s decision to close the North Limestone location, she said.

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The chain announced a Restock Kroger initiative last fall, which includes plans to roll out more programs like ClickList and its Scan, Bag, Go program to more stores. ClickList allows customers to order groceries online and pick the delivery up at a local store while Scan, Bag, Go allows customers to scan items as they shop through the store.

Kroger has made significant investments in Springfield despite those two recent decisions, said Tom Franzen, assistant city manager and director of economic development for Springfield.

“It’s just an extremely competitive industry right now and it’s hard for them to suffer through a store that’s under-performing.”

The location at 2300 N. Limestone previously housed a Big Bear grocery store, said Michael McDorman, president of the Chamber of Greater Springfield.

“It could be an opportunity for some niche retailer to go into that site,” McDorman said of the North Limestone Street location once it closes.

The chain’s decision is an example of the tough decisions grocery chains are facing as technology changes and competition ramps up from convenience store and online retailers like Amazon, McDorman said.

“All business sectors are being disrupted today,” McDorman said. “This is an example of disruption in the grocery and retail area.”

The Springfield News-Sun will continue to provide unmatched coverage of retail and the grocery business and its impact on residents in Clark and Champaign Counties. The paper broke news that Kroger will close its location on North Limestone Street in Springfield early next year, and will continue to provide coverage of how the chain’s decisions impact local residents.

88 — Estimated employees affected

$10 million — Kroger’s investment in other Springfield stores

443,000 — Estimated Kroger employees nationwide

35 — States Kroger operates in

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