Kroger Closing

Published 4:58 pm Thursday, March 21, 2013

FARMVILLE – There were shoppers in Kroger on Tuesday afternoon.

The store was busy.

But there was a quietness, even at the normally effervescent check-out line, as if there had been a death in the family.

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And there had been. For customers who had heard the news, the setting felt like family visitation after the loss of a loved one.

“Are ya'll going to be alright?” a woman asked, in hushed tones, after quietly approaching a familiar check-out clerk.

“I guess with God's help we will,” answered one of the 80 employees who will lose their jobs when the Kroger closes, scheduled now for May 21.

A March 19 letter sent by Kroger Food Stores to Farmville Mayor Sydnor C. Newman, Jr. stated that “the entire store is being closed, and the closure is expected to be permanent.”

And, continued the letter from Michael Christie, Labor Relations Manager, Mid-Atlantic Division, Kroger Limited Partnership I, “the number of employees whose positions will be eliminated and whom will be separated from their employment upon the store's closure between May 21, 2013 and June 4, 2013 is (including both full-time and part-time) eighty.”

Separated from their employment.

These jobs:

Two bakery clerks.

One dairy department head.

Nine deli clerks.

One deli department head.

Three drug-general merchandise clerks.

Twelve front end baggers.

Twenty-two front end clerks.

One front end department head.

One front end department head assistant.

One front end file MTC lead clerk.

Twelve grocery clerks.

One grocery clerk department head.

Four meat clerks.

Two meat cutters.

Seven produce clerks.

One store co-manager.

Eighty human beings.

Kroger has said it will allow transfers to other stores that have openings. There is a Kroger in Appomattox.

According to a press release on Kroger's corporate website, the chain reported “record third quarter earnings per share.”

And there was this quote from David B. Dillon, Kroger's chairman and chief executive officer: “Kroger achieved our growth objectives for the quarter, including positive identical supermarket sales, operating profit growth and outstanding tonnage growth. This quarter illustrates that the strength of our core business positions Kroger to accelerate our earnings per growth share.”

But Kroger spokesperson, Carl York, said in a news release that, “unfortunately, the store in Farmville is not profitable. We have kept the store open for years in the hope that the situation would turn around, but that has not happened.”

Kroger purchased the store from Harris Teeter in 1999 and leases the building. “We regret leaving a community that we have served for many years,” York observed in the news release.

The letter to Mayor Newman this week about closing the Farmville Kroger was sent, the correspondence explained, “pursuant to the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1988 (“WARN”), which requires employers to give official notice to certain government units or officials of certain plant closures or employee lay-offs.”


Though such news almost always feels as if it came without warning.

Town Manager Gerald Spates responded to the letter from Kroger to Mayor Newman, telling Christie “this is quite a surprise and a disappointment to lose such a valuable part of our retail community. If there is anything that we can do as a Town, to help keep Kroger's presence in our community, please let me know.

“Rest assured that we understand business decisions and how difficult it is to deal with these issues, especially in today's economy. If I can be of any help,” Spates writes, “please let me know.”

In the first hours after word of the pending closure began to spread, everything looked the same at Kroger, all the cans and boxes on all the familiar shelves, but everything felt different.

A customer reached into a pocket to pull out the Kroger Plus Shopper's Card, an action barely noticed under normal circumstances but one that was steeped in sad irony on Tuesday.

Words of quiet comfort were shared with a familiar check-out clerk.

A few heartfelt phrases among the great many exchanged Tuesday between longtime Kroger customers and longtime Kroger employees.

“This decision is not reflective on our employees in Farmville,” said York. “They are dedicated and have worked hard. This is a 'bottom line' decision.”