Sunday, January 20, 2019

AFB Goes Krogering!

     No, you're not seeing things. This is the Albertsons Florida Blog, and yes, that is a Kroger. With that being said, this must mean either one of two things: 1) AFB ventured outside of Florida to photograph one of those mystical Kroger stores he hears so much about or 2) AFB found a secret Kroger store hidden away deep within the swamps of Florida, a safe distance away from the nearest Publix store. As intriguing at that second option may sound, if you guessed option #1, you guessed correctly!

Kroger #GA-688
53 Exchange St., Richmond Hill, GA

     This Kroger store opened on March 20, 2008, replacing the original Richmond Hill Kroger nearby at 9701 Ford Avenue. The original store opened in September 1999, and is now split between a Goodwill and a few other stores.

     While you may have thought you were seeing things when a live Kroger popped up on the blog, this may not be the first time you've seen me feature pictures of this particular Kroger location. If you follow AFB on flickr, you may remember when I posted pictures of this store a few times in the past after passing through the Richmond Hill area during my summer break. Due to the impending purge of photos from flickr and my unwillingness to pay to continue to use flickr's services, my photos of the Richmond Hill Kroger will now find a new home right here on AFB. I know this may be a strange way to kick off AFB for 2019, but moving my excess photos from flickr to my new blog, My Florida Retail, has been eating up much of my free time (and is why AFB is getting off to a late start for 2019). As I've mentioned in the past, My Florida Retail will be the new home for my non-Albertsons related photos, just like my old flickr photostream was. These Kroger photos will be the only batch migrating from my flickr photostream to AFB. I know many AFB readers are intrigued and mystified by Kroger, and many Floridians would love nothing more than to see Kroger pop up here. If Kroger won't bring any actual stores to Florida, the best I can do is bring one to everybody virtually!

     With all that ranting about flickr and the new blog aside, let's take a better look at the subject of today's post: this Kroger store. Richmond Hill, GA is a southern suburb of Savannah. Located on the southern banks of the Ogeechee River, just a bit inland from where the Ogeechee spills into the Atlantic, you'll find the small town of Richmond Hill. This Kroger is one of three grocery stores to serve this town, the others being a Publix on the far eastern outskirts of Richmond Hill, and a Food Lion on the southern edge of town. However, this Kroger has the benefit of being located right in the heart of Richmond Hill, just off of the town's main exit from Interstate 95. With that in mind, this Kroger generates a lot of business from locals and people passing through town.

     The exterior design of this store is quite common for Kroger stores built in the late 2000's, especially in the Atlanta division (which this Kroger store is a part of). However, as l_dawg2000 pointed out, this design wasn't exclusive to the Atlanta division. The Kroger store in Arlington, TN (part of Kroger's Delta Division) was designed using a similar prototype to this one, which you can see here.

     If you remember from flickr, my photos of this store were taken on three different occasions while passing through the area, with none of those three sets being rather comprehensive. One nice thing about transferring these photos over to a blog post is all of those photosets have now been merged into one, and the results are quite comprehensive! (Especially when you consider that on each of my three visits to this store, I wasn't in here for more than five minutes each time!).

     In the above photo we can see the entrance into this Kroger store. I think it's about time we head inside and see what us Floridians are being deprived of this store is all about...

     Walking through the vestibule and turning right upon entering, the first department we see is floral (or 'flowers' as the sign says). With the placement of floral next to the entrance, followed by the deli and bakery departments just beyond this, the layout of this portion of the store is very similar to that of a modern Publix. The color scheme of Kroger's decor isn't helping to differentiate this view from a typical Publix store either, as these colors are close to what Publix uses in their Classy Market 3.0 decor too! Just out of frame to my left is a Starbucks coffee kiosk, which I failed to get a photo of.

     As for the decor in this store, this is Kroger's 'Bountiful' decor (which is also called the '2012 decor' elsewhere around the internet). This decor package debuted around 2009, and became a rather commonplace look for Kroger stores built and remodeled in the early 2010's. This decor has since been retired by Kroger, although with the number of remodels Kroger did in the early 2010's, you'll see this decor is still quite commonplace throughout the different Kroger divisions. This decor was installed at this particular location around 2014 or 2015. Originally, this store opened with Kroger's 'Script decor', the common Kroger decor used in the late 2000's. (Actually, you can actually see some photos of this store with the original decor in the photo album included with this article). If you're interested in learning more about the various Kroger decor packages of the last 30 years, the Mid-South Retail Blog has a nice directory of Kroger decors which you can view here.

     If you have Kroger stores in your area, this decor probably won't seem very special considering how commonplace it has become. To a Floridian like me, seeing something that isn't Classy Market 3.0 is quite exotic! This photo was taken looking into the front right corner of the store, home to the bakery, deli, sushi counter, and the Kroger Bistro (that department being just out of frame to the right).

     Moving closer to the deli counter, here's a better look at the Kroger Bistro. The Kroger Bistro is Kroger's prepared foods department, home to a variety of pre-made and pre-cooked meals. I don't think the Bistro is original to when this store opened in 2008, as I believe this is a newer concept Kroger has been experimenting with. More then likely, the Bistro was added when this store remodeled to the Bountiful decor. Before the remodel, the Bistro area was probably home to more deli space or a Kroger Cafe seating area prior.

     Here is a closer view of the Kroger Bistro department. From what I remember walking by here, this store’s bistro had a selection of sandwiches and pizzas in addition to some other items. Overall though, the bistro selection seemed much larger than what many other supermarkets offer in regard to prepared foods.

     Added sometime between 2017 and 2018 was this Murray’s Cheese counter, which appears to have expanded upon a previously existing Kroger specialty cheese case located in the same area.

     Just beyond the Kroger Bistro and the deli is the bakery department, hidden behind the Murray’s Cheese counter.

     Fresh from the Kroger Bakery - Get you hot fresh yeast rings here! As I was walking by the donut case near the bakery, I noticed something strange. And by that, I don't mean the donut with Froot Loops on it (which is strange in its own way) - I noticed Kroger was calling their donuts "yeast rings", which I had never seen or heard donuts referred to as before. I don't know if that's a local thing or just Kroger's oddly generic term for donuts. However, it's a much better (and more appetizing) term than what Winn-Dixie sometimes labels their deli macaroni and cheese as: Reduced Starch. Like me, some of the others over on flickr were amused by the "yeast ring" terminology, such as The Market Report blogger, who said, "Gee, I wonder why they didn't call the chain Dunkin' Yeast Rings!" Retail Retell expanded upon that comment, adding, "It does have a nice ring to it, doesn't it? (pun intended XD )" YonWooRetail2 was so intrigued by these yeast rings, that he even tried to stop here while in the area to taste one: "I actually stopped off I-95 at one of the Richmond Hill exits to come buy a chocolate yeast ring while passing, but I didn't find the Kroger...think I got off at [the] wrong exit!"

     Opposite the Murray’s Cheese counter and the bakery is this store’s natural foods department, called the “Live Naturally” department on the hanging sign. This store had a rather large selection of natural/organic products, with a few mini-coolers and aisles running off to the side of the produce department (which is located just ahead of me).

     You know I wouldn't be able to leave here without a photo of the giant "the garden" sign in the produce department! This thing really is neat to see in person, and it's much bigger than any photos of it seem to show. This is my favorite part of this Kroger decor, that's for sure! As l_dawg2000 commented, "I agree: it's very cool, and hard to do it justice in any photos, due to it's massive size! Than again, you gotta love the very cool replacement for this that was used in the new Hernando store!"

     Anyway, this photo give us a decent overview of the produce department, which is located in the back right corner of the store.

     Here's a closer view of "the garden" sign. I took a photo of this sign during each of my visits here, that's how neat this thing is!

     One last look at the produce department and its giant hanging sign before moving on...

     Moving away from produce, here we see the back aisle of the store. The meat and seafood counter is visible off to the right, just a little bit ahead from where I was standing.

     Getting closer to the meat and seafood counter...

     Here's a straight-on look at the meat and seafood (or "meat & fish" as Kroger calls it) counter.

     In this photo, we're looking up aisle 3. While this part of the aisle was home to baking supplies, the rest of the aisle was home to a large selection of cookware. The cookware section of the aisle included those decorative wooden overhang things (I don't know what else to call them), something I don't recall seeing in other photos online (unless their existence just didn't stick in my head until I saw them in person). According to Retail Retell, those wooden overhangs are actually something Kroger had been using since the late 90's, as seen in this Millennium decor Kroger in Mississippi. Both he and l_dawg2000 were surprised to find out those pieces had been carried through all the way to the Script decor era. Anyway, this Kroger had a very extensive selection of cookware compared to other traditional grocery stores, which is something they seem to be known for.

     As we continue our trek across the main salesfloor, here's a quick look across this store's front end. Here you can see the typical Bountiful decor tri-sided aisle signs, and this decor's bland white cube register lights (definitely a step down from previous designs like this and this). Also in the background of this photo you can see the pharmacy.

     While this hanging bread sign spanned the back part of both aisles 5 and 6, only aisle 5 contained any of the bread mentioned. Aisle 6 was home to canned items, with promotional and sale items placed in the bins located in the center of the two aisles (under the bread sign) and at the very end of aisle 6.

     Moving further up aisle 6 from the bread sign, here's a look toward the front end.

     This photo provides us with a better view of what this store's aisle markers look like.

     Yes, aisle 12 in a Kroger (you know who you are, with your thing for the number 12!). I just couldn't pass up getting a photo of this. Aisle 12 at this store happened to be home to the cleaning supplies.

     This photo looks across the back of the store toward the back left corner, with part of the dairy department visible to my right. My main goal with this photo was to capture the large overhead Kroger promotional sign, one of many of that same style (although with different pictures and sayings) throughout the store.

     The pet department is located in aisle 13, and comes complete with its own circular department sign to hang over the center of the aisle.

     Aisle 15 can be seen here, home to bottled water and other drinks.

     Next door to the water and the milder drinks in aisle 15, aisles 16 and 17 were home to this store's rather large selection of wine and beer.

     The next series of aisles beyond the wine and beer section is health and beauty. In addition to a small section of health and beauty items next to the pharmacy (which we’ll see in just a moment), aisles 18 and 19 contained the remainder of the health and beauty items.

     Here we can see the back left corner of the store, where the dairy department begins to transition into the frozen foods section.

     Now that we have approached the store’s left side wall, we find ourselves in the frozen food department (aka “the freezer”). I have to say, the stenciling on the walls really makes this decor package look much nicer than if the walls were only painted in the solid colors.

     In this photo we can see the pharmacy counter, which is located in the front left corner of the store.

     As I said before, the remainder of the health and beauty aisles were located in the front of the store in front of the pharmacy counter. Those aisles can be seen here, labeled as aisles A-D. This photo also gives us a glimpse into the second floor mezzanine behind the health and beauty aisles, where store offices and possibly the employee break room are located.

     Along the front wall (between the checkouts and health and beauty) is the seasonal department, which was being stocked with patio furniture when I took this photo). The second floor mezzanine is also visible in this photo as well.

      Returning to the front end once again, here's another overview of this area as seen from the seasonal department.

     As nice as it was to finally experience what a Kroger was all about, all good things must come to an end...

     Our tour of the Richmond Hill Kroger store comes to a close with this final photo of the store's exterior, taken as we were driving away. From what I saw, this was a very nice store, and going here was a nice break from more of the same old Publix stores I usually go to! However, it seems unlikely that Kroger will be coming to Florida anytime soon, at least under their namesake brand. Kroger seems quite happy right now getting their small slice of Florida from the lone Harris Teeter store in Fernandina Beach, as well as aiding Lucky's Market with their aggressive push into Florida. As you may remember a few years back, Kroger made an investment in Lucky's Market to help fuel their growth and help with their distribution infrastructure. While never publicly confirmed, it was rumored that one of the reasons Kroger made this investment in Lucky's was to specifically help push their store count in Florida, where Kroger hardly has a presence. Lucky's is really going expansion-wild in Florida right now, with nearly 20 new stores in the works to open over the next two years throughout the state when you add them all up. And just in the last few weeks, Kroger's Simple Truth branded items have been appearing on shelves at Lucky's Market. With their investment in Lucky's, Kroger is now able to expand their reach of that brand even further. Interestingly enough, I saw an ad for Kroger's Simple Truth brand air during an episode of The Big Bang Theory not long ago on Orlando's WKMG Channel 6. At first I thought it was pretty weird seeing that ad air on such a national level, considering we don't have any Kroger stores around here, but now I know where to find Simple Truth in Florida!

     Anyway, my apologies once again for this month being so slow here on AFB. Transferring my flickr content to My Florida Retail has been much more time consuming than I thought! However, everything should be back to normal come February as the content transfer process dies down. With that being said, we return to our regularly scheduled former Albertsons on February 3rd, so be sure to come back then so we can get AFB off to a proper start for 2019! In the meantime, there are new posts of my old flickr content going up on My Florida Retail nearly every day, so please check that out if you're looking for something to read until then.

So until the next post,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger