By Waringa Kamau

Lexington Kroger customers are greeted by caution signs and open ceilings covered with plastic sheets. A sign in the entrance displays the extensive construction plans and a new proposed store layout.

The Kroger on East Nelson Street is in its third week of renovations that are expected to be complete by July 25.

Kroger Co. is the largest traditional grocery retailer in the United States, with almost 2,500 stores across 31 states and 61 stores in Virginia. Annual sales are almost $100 billion.

Store manager Scott Leonard said Kroger is renovating and remodeling a number of stores nationwide.

“There have been other remodels in our particular area here,” he said. “The Staunton Kroger is being remodeled this year and they just finished the Lynchburg store.”

Kroger has been at its present location since 1998. This is the biggest and most extensive renovation to the store.

This is Kroger’s biggest renovation to date. Photo by Waringa Kamau.

Leonard said the motivation to renovate Lexington’s Kroger also came from pressure from customers.

“It needs a renovation; right now it’s just an old dated store and our customers definitely want it,” he said.

Cherie Sheppard, a long-time resident of Lexington, has been shopping at Kroger ever since it came to Lexington.

“The building that Kroger is in is quite old. It needs some work.” she said. “I remember going there in my 20s in the ’70s when it was still Safeway and, later on, Harris Teeter.”

The supermarket building itself will undergo renovations, including construction on floors and ceilings. The layout of the store will be completely different and modern décor and equipment, including new checkout tills, will be installed.

Leonard said the store plans to eliminate some merchandise and introduce new products.

“We’ll have some different gourmet cheeses, new meats and a wider variety of fresh salads,” he said.

The supermarket has had to change its hours to accommodate the renovations. The store now closes at 10 p.m. instead of midnight. Leonard said one of the reasons for the schedule change is to ensure customer safety.

“We can’t have them shopping when the lifts that the construction guys use to get to the ceiling are operating,” he said.

The schedule also gives the construction team more time to work during the night to avoid inconveniencing customers during the day.

The supermarket will resume normal operation hours, 6 a.m. to midnight, upon completion of the renovations.

Leonard said there hasn’t been a decline in sales as a result of the ongoing renovations. He said the only effect that the renovations have had is in changing the general feel of the store.

“Customers are glad that we’re doing this, but the store doesn’t feel as clean because you have ceilings being torn open and busting walls in certain places,” he said.

Sheppard said she is not bothered by the renovations.

“It’s a bit messy, but my shopping experience is still the same,” she said.

Leonard said he hopes that the store will have higher sales once the renovations are over. Management at the Lexington Food Lion would not comment on whether they foresee their business being affected by an updated Kroger.

Leonard said although the focus now is on remodeling the current store, there are also plans to get a bigger location in Lexington in the future.

“We’re excited about this project,” he said. “Once we’re done, there won’t be a store around like us.”

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