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Decatur working to attract a new grocer to replace Baby Kroger

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Decatur working to attract a new grocer to replace Baby Kroger

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

Decatur, GA — The city of Decatur is working with the property owner of the Baby Kroger to attract a new grocer to move into the building at 720 Commerce Drive.

Decatur Planning and Economic Development Director Angela Threadgill outlined the city’s efforts during the Downtown Development Authority meeting on March 10. DDA Board Chair Conor McNally asked if there was an update on the property.

The Baby Kroger closed its doors on Dec. 2, 2022, and the news also came as a surprise to the property’s owner, Stein Investment Group.

Jason Linscott, a principal with Stein Investment, previously said Kroger has two years left on its lease.

“We assumed they were staying for a couple more years at least,” he said, adding later, “I’m surprised. I grew up here in Decatur. I’m super familiar with the store. I thought that would be something they’d want to hang on to in downtown Decatur. Obviously not.”

Linscott said the building could suit a variety of uses.

The property owner is looking to lease the space to a new tenant.

“We have been in contact with the owners of the old Kroger site,” Threadgill said. “We are of the understanding that Kroger still maintains close to a two-year lease, and they continue to pay on that lease despite the fact that they have exited the property.”

She added that Kroger is still obligated to maintain the property, which is part of why the windows are currently boarded up to protect them due to vacancy.

Threadgill has met with the property owner a couple of times.

“We are putting together the puzzle pieces,” she said. “Most likely, we’re not going to find a national retailer to backfill that space because it’s 17,000 square feet. There are some smaller grocers that we’re trying to court.”

There are some petitions circulating around the community for a Trader Joe’s, but it seems unlikely that a Trader Joe’s will fill that space.

“I’m not sure if Trader Joe’s is seriously considering [that] given that their other store is about 15 minutes away in Midtown,” Threadgill said. “From what I understand of retailers, they’re not going to want to pull their customer base away from that store for another store that’s 15 minutes away.”

McNally added that Trader Joe’s in particular does not do that.

There is a lot for the city and the property owner to consider. But the city is working to try to bring another grocery store to Decatur.

“At this point, we’re starting to look at the opportunities for an independent grocer,” Threadgill said. “The ownership is very aware that we desire to backfill that space with a grocer. That’s our desire. It’s incumbent upon us to help with that process. We’re talking and bringing different parties together to see if that can be done.”

McNally said that the store is a “tough size.”

“Kroger’s very successful and they know what they’re doing in operating a store of that size,” he said. “You see smaller format grocery stores, but they’re typically very dense urban environments with a lot of walkable traffic. It’s just not that dense here.”

He also agreed that the community would like to see another grocery store, but also would like to see the space filled with something, so it doesn’t continue to sit vacant.

“But I think we also need to be mindful of backfilling it with something because vacancy is bad,” McNally said. “I don’t want it to sit around for another two years trying to find a grocer when you’re looking for a needle in a haystack because it’s not a profitable grocery site.”

There could also be an opportunity for the building to be subdivided into different retail spaces, Threadgill added.

Threadgill previously said the property is zoned C-2 commercial. Under the city’s zoning code, it can have a variety of uses. Permitted uses include an indoor recreational area, medical offices, a radio and television studio, overnight lodging, a restaurant with a drive-thru, and another retail store.

Editor and Publisher Dan Whisenhunt contributed to this article. 

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