The $10 million Kroger in the Short North opened Tuesday morning after years of planning and changes suggested by customers, including the addition of the Ohio State University BuckID as a form of payment.
Kroger spokeswoman, Beth Wilkin, said the company brought in focus groups from three areas before constructing the new store: the Short North and Italian Village, Weinland Park and Harrison West, and the OSU campus.
Among the suggestions from the focus groups were “more selection, ‘grab and go’ items, more organic and natural produce and the option for students to use the BuckID.”
Wilkin said she does not know how much students will use the BuckID option because it is new for the store, but all of the campus area locations will be accepting it by the time school starts in the fall.
“We’re really looking forward to being a better option for OSU students, faculty and staff,” said Wilkin. “We’re also very excited about BuckID.”
The better selection in groceries isn’t the most obvious improvement in the new location. The look of the store, which expanded from 39,000 square feet to almost 60,000 square feet, was designed to blend in with the look of the Short North stretch.
The building, which is connected to the sidewalk on High Street, now offers a sushi and salad bar, a seating area next to large windows that offer a view of the street, a bistro and a state liquor store.
Kevin Morin, a second-year in engineering, lives near the Kroger and said he is happy with the upgrade.
“This development has just improved this whole surrounding area,” Morin said. “It’s important for the city because visual impressions are important.”
The new look is part of the plan for Kroger to close the gap between the Short North and the South Campus Gateway, where the street-scape is more dilapidated than nearby areas. Wilkin said they are “hoping to bridge the Short North and South Campus.”
Jacob Cole, a line cook at the Northstar Cafe in the Short North, said he thinks the new store will cause more development in the area.
“This is a major connection spot,” said Cole. “It’s, like, a little seedy still, but they’re trying to connect it and this should definitely help.”
Students Sarie Waseem, a third-year in studio art, and Katie Gressel, a third-year in molecular genetics, said they didn’t like shopping at the older, run-down store because the area was “sketchy.”
“I was a little too scared,” Waseem said. “It didn’t seem the safest, in the parking lot and stuff. I just kind of felt like avoiding it.”
After touring the store and picking up a few items, both said they were impressed with the new look and larger selection, and planned to shop there more often.
“There’s a lot more variety,” Gressel said. “It’s just a lot more friendly, open, welcome.”