The Kroger in Old Louisville is one of the few grocery stores near downtown. | Courtesy of Jefferson County PVA

Kroger is closing its Old Louisville location at 924 S. 2nd St. after 37 years, further feeding the need for more grocery stores in Louisville’s urban neighborhoods.

“It’s devastating,” said Louisville Metro Councilman David James (D-6). “This is a long list of grocery stores that have been closing in the urban service area.”

Kroger spokesman Tim McGurk said in an email that property owner State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio plans to sell the nearly 1.5-acre property and would not continue leasing the building to Kroger.

“In connection with that transaction, the landlord is requiring Kroger to vacate the building by the end of February,” McGurk said in the email.

Nick Treneff, a spokesman for the pension fund, said the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio wanted to lock Kroger into a five-year lease to make the property more attractive to a potential buyer. Kroger was unwilling to make that long-term commitment and wanted to continue renegotiating the lease every year as the parties had done in the past, he said.

The pension fund will continue to search for a buyer and will likely keep the building vacant.

“Probably having it empty is better than having a year-to-year situation,” Treneff said, adding that he doesn’t believe a sale is imminent. The listing price is $1.6 million.

Trenoff added that the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio was to sell the property as part of its portfolio strategy to reduce exposure to less viable real estate. The fund still owns three industrial warehouse buildings in Louisville and plans to keep holding them.

The Old Louisville Kroger will close at 6 p.m. Jan. 28, McGurk’s email stated, and all of the store’s 90 employees will be offered jobs at other Louisville Kroger locations for the same pay and benefits they were receiving.

McGurk noted in the email that there are three other Kroger stores within a three-mile radius, including 1265 Goss Ave., 3165 S. 2nd St. and 2710 W. Broadway. TARC riders can take TARC Route 4 to access the Kroger at Second Street and Central Avenue.

Councilman James told IL in an interview that while all Old Louisville residents will be impacted, traveling to the nearest Kroger more than two miles away is unrealistic for Old Louisville’s large senior citizen population.

“If you are in a wheelchair and a senior citizen, that might as well be on the moon,” he said. “Kroger was the one-stop shop for people who lived in the neighborhood.”

Louisville leaders have spoken to Kroger officials about helping the Cincinnati-based grocery company find a new property in Old Louisville, James said.

“The city has expressed to Kroger from more than one angle that that Kroger’s is very important to the fabric of our community,” he said. Kroger officials said they were willing to discuss the possibility of opening a new location in Old Louisville, he added.

The loss of the Old Louisville Kroger will loom large as it is one of only a few groceries near the Central Business District, which itself lacks any grocery stores.

“We are talking about getting people to move downtown and to Old Louisville, and without a grocery store, that is not very convenient,” James said. “Having a grocery store downtown is key to urban living.”

The Omni Hotel Louisville will have an urban market with essentials when it opens in 2018, but it won’t be a full-blown grocery. It won’t serve the city’s urban residents, particularly in lower-income neighborhoods, in the same way that Kroger and other recently closed stores did.

Last month, Portland neighborhood grocery Pic-Pac Supermarket announced that it was closing, according to a report from Wave3 News. First Link Grocery in Phoenix Hill closed in 2016, and the property was sold to the Louisville Metro Housing Authority.

Kroger also shuttered its Southland Terrace store less than two months ago. The company in November said that Kroger location was unsustainable, having lost $4.3 million in the past five years.

“Kroger will remain strong in Louisville and involved in the community,” McGurk said in the email. “The company is currently in the midst of a three-year, $150-million investment to improve many of the Louisville stores.”

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Caitlin Bowling
Louisville native Caitlin Bowling has covered the local restaurant and retail scene since 2014. After graduating from the Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Caitlin got her start at a newspaper in the mountains of North Carolina where she won multiple state awards for her reporting. Since returning to Louisville, she’s written for Business First and Insider Louisville, winning awards for health and business reporting and becoming a go-to source for business news. In addition to restaurants and retail business, Caitlin covers real estate, economic development and tourism. Email Caitlin at [email protected]