Those are but a few of the staggering numbers that Kroger executive Ruben Fernandez rolled off during grand reopening ceremonies Wednesday morning. Local businessmen, government leaders and regular customers joined Kroger executives and associates for the ribbon-cutting festivities.
Kroger’s long commitment to Rome began in July 1957 when the grocery chain opened a 14,000-square-foot store in the city.
Another, 30,000-square-foot, store opened in 1980, followed by the 49,000-square-foot store in Etowah Crossing in 1988, both since closed.
The Riverbend shopping center store originally opened with 60,000 square feet in 2003, and the expanded store now encompasses some 90,000 square feet. The addition opened last fall, but work on the expansion has continued inside while shoppers combed the aisles.
“This is the third one of these (ribbon-cutting ceremonies) here, and I say every time it’s the best we’ve got to offer,” said Rome Kroger Manager Steve Van Meter. “It is again!”
He saved his greatest thanks for the throng of shoppers and community leaders in the store for the program.
“You guys earned this. We have the greatest customers,” Van Meter said.
Rome Mayor Evie McNiece returned the appreciation, telling Van Meter and the Kroger team that it was a great celebration for the company and the community. The mayor said the project is all the more significant since Kroger made the $8 million investment during a time of economic turmoil.
“You have been constantly dedicated to community service and to community outreach,” McNiece said.
Wright Ledbetter of Ledbetter Properties, which developed the shopping center, congratulated Kroger for its long partnership.
“Thanks for your investment not only in bricks and mortar, but in human capital,” Ledbetter said.
The Rome Kroger employs 240 associates with a total of more than 1,400 years of grocery experience.
Further evidence of the Kroger commitment to Rome included the presentation of checks to officials from the Rome and Floyd County school systems, which each received $1,000. Representatives from St. Mary’s Catholic School and Darlington also accepted checks for $500 each during Wednesday’s ceremonies.
The expansion of the Rome Kroger includes a floral department and a bigger natural foods and nutrition section, which Van Meter called the fastest-growing section of the store.
The addition also includes a café featuring chef-prepared meals, a fresh sushi bar with cold beverages, a much larger meat and seafood section, gourmet pastries, an expanded beer and wine department with more than 1,500 selections, and an enhanced beauty care section.