Drive along a four-mile stretch of State Road 135 in the Center Grove area, and you will pass three grocery stores: two Kroger stores and what could eventually become a third.
Kroger already has two stores along the busy route, a 28-year-old store at Fairview Road and a nearly one-year-old store at Smokey Row Road. And now, the grocer has proposed buying the last Marsh store in Johnson County at Stones Crossing Road. That would be one Kroger supermarket every 1.5 miles.
The question the company is now considering is if Johnson County — especially the Center Grove area — has enough people to sustain three different grocery stores.
Earlier this month, Kroger agreed to buy 11 Marsh stores, which included the 55,000-square-foot store southwest of the State Road 135 and Stones Crossing Road intersection. While Kroger is waiting for the purchase to be finalized, which is set for mid-to-late July, the company has created a task force to consider how to handle the recent acquisitions, Kroger spokesperson Eric Halvorson. said.
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The Marsh store, which remains open, is clearing out its inventory with a clearance sale.
One of the most important questions for the task force will be whether the area has enough shoppers to support three Kroger stores within a four-mile stretch of State Road 135, which some store officials believe is realistic, he said. What Kroger would do if research shows three stores aren’t feasible hasn’t been decided.
The Marsh store, which opened in 2001, is sandwiched between two Kroger stores are along State Road 135. The 100,000-square-foot Kroger store at Smokey Row Road opened at the end of 2016. The 76,000-square-foot Kroger store just south of Fairview Road opened in 1989.
Now, Kroger is conducting an economic analysis on having three stores in close proximity, Halvorson said.
Besides looking at whether operating all three stores is economically feasible, the company is also studying what will need to be done to the Marsh building to convert it into a Kroger, he said.
“As we add stores, we want shoppers to feel like they just entered a brand new store,” Halvorson said. “We also want them to know — as soon as they walk in — that they are in one of our stores.”
That means the Kroger task force is evaluating everything from the roof on down to the parking lots and deciding what aspects of the building could stay the same and what would need to change, he said.
Kroger is also encouraging Marsh employees to apply for positions, Halvorson said.
“If there are Marsh people concerned about their future, we are wanting them to come talk to our human resources,” he said.