WINTERSVILLE - Kroger Co. celebrated the completion of a $2.2 million renovation project at its Wintersville location Wednesday, a project designed to give the store a modern vibe as well as improve the shopping experience for its customers.
"We're definitely excited about the area and feel confident about the future, or we wouldn't be investing that kind of money," said Dennis Gibson, vice president of operations for Kroger's Columbus marketing area. "There's potential for growth here."
In addition to its investment in Wintersville, Kroger spent $2.4 million upgrading its St. Thomas Drive location in Weirton and $2.4 million at its Mount de Chantal Road store in Wheeling. Gibson pointed out the company invested $2.4 million in its Hollywood City Center location in Steubenville last year, and made upgrades at its downtown Weirton location and other stores throughout the region.
ENJOYING THE DAY — Gage Hennis, 3, of Bloomingdale enjoyed having his face painted during the Wintersville Kroger grand reopening celebration held Wednesday evening at the store. -- Linda Harris
"We're making a real commitment to the valley, the associates who work here and the people who shop here," said Bernie Anders, district marketing manager for Kroger.
The 56,000-plus square foot Wintersville store's upgrades include wooden floors and an open ceiling in the produce department, a relocated floral department, expanded Nature's Market of organic products, a larger pharmacy, new refrigeration cases and renovated restrooms.
There's also new signage as well as a consumer-friendly layout that groups similar items together, making it easier for the shopper-on-the-run to get in and out quickly.
Store Manager Neil Chase said the expanded organics selection is just a common-sense decision, explaining that it's an area that's seen double-digit growth in sales during the last three or four years, he said.
"A lot of what we've done was based on customer feedback," he said, pointing out the new "center store" format is already generating a good buzz.
"Our customers love it, they're getting used to it," he said. "And they've told us they love our new signage. Once they're used to it, they'll find it easier to shop our store."
The store has a promotional aisle where they'll stock seasonal items -that could mean anything from Christmas trees and decorations during the holiday season to grills for summer cookouts.
"And we have new refrigerator cases and LED lighting," he added.
Jackie Siekmann, media and government relations manager for the Columbus division, said Kroger has been switching all of their stores to energy-efficient lighting.
"During the past 10 years, Kroger as a company has saved enough energy to power the city of Fort Worth, Texas, for a whole year," she said.
Kroger also emphasizes local products, and the Wintersville store features brands including DeLallo, Undo's salad dressings, Figaretti spaghetti sauce and Sugar Shack Kettle Corn, which is made nearby in Salem.
"Our celebration this week has tied in local businesses like Figaretti's, Undos, Sugar Shack, DeLallo and Sarris Candy," Chase said. "We're trying to get all of them involved. It's important to us to (promote Ohio Valley businesses.)"
In Weirton Wednesday, Kroger officials showed off renovations to the 67,468-square-foot location that include a larger floral department in the front lobby of the store, as well as a new Starbucks, expanded natural food section, larger meat cases and many more changes.
Nathan Bowlby, manager of the Weirton location, pointed out the expanded cheese islands and renovated bakery section, which will provide a wider variety of cakes and other items. The Starbucks, he said, was the first of its kind in this portion of the country.
As part of Wednesday's grand re-opening, sample stations were located throughout the store, where customers could try various selections before purchasing.
Working at one of the sample stations Wednesday was Keith Cellone, representing Delallo Foods, of Jeannette, Pa., whose products are now more widely available thanks to a new partnership with Kroger.