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Dear Decaturish – Downtown Decatur is DeKalb County’s latest food desert

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Dear Decaturish – Downtown Decatur is DeKalb County’s latest food desert

The Baby Kroger located at 720 Commerce Drive in Decatur. Photo by Dean Hesse.

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Dear Decaturish,

The closing of the Commerce Drive Kroger brings to mind the children’s riddle, “Water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink.”

For downtown Decatur has an abundance of food available seemingly almost everywhere at an almost endless array of high-priced, exotic dining establishments, but virtually none anywhere within reasonable walking distances for moderate and low-income households (who city leaders claim to value) to buy the everyday groceries vital to their continuing to reside in the city.

Face it, folks. Downtown Decatur is DeKalb County’s latest food desert. And while a Dollar General or Family Dollar may not be welcome in some areas, for those of us without transportation, such a store in that old Kroger building would be a real blessing. One or the other would not be a perfect solution (for the residents of downtown Decatur deserve a full grocery), but these stores now carry many food lines, including milk, bread and frozen items.

In addition, these chains stock clothing as well as many other household items no longer available in the downtown business district—and at affordable prices. One of the other small-store grocery chains, such as Aldi or Lidt, might also fit very well into the former Kroger building, again providing a full line of groceries for all of Decatur’s central-city residents, including those in the upscale condos and apartments.

For many of us living at Phillips Tower, Oliver House, Clairmont Oaks, and the Beacon Hill community, such a store is a real amenity if not an absolute necessity. When Marjorie and I were seeking a low-cost, senior apartment home five years ago, the Commerce Drive Kroger was a real plus—a very do-able walk for me, as well as good exercise. When we had to give up our car, we were even more thankful for the Kroger store.

So, why did the Kroger Company choose to shut this store? Were they really losing money? As one who often stood in line for five to ten minutes checking out, that seems a bit incredible. But large corporations tend to have minimum profit goals which may not have been being met. And the new Publix likely put at least a temporary dent in Kroger’s sales.

But according to a news report, the building’s owners stated Kroger still has some two years on its lease. Will the property just stand empty? Or will we soon hear a proposal to rezone it for more high-rise residential development? That would be another, quite “natural” step to making downtown Decatur even more of a retail wasteland as well as a food desert.

— Delmar R. (Del) Yoder

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