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Mayor shares thoughts on Kroger closing

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Last week the Kroger Corporation announced a decision to close one of its Crawfordsville stores. The announcement has, as one would expect, resulted in a passionate response within our community. While I fully understand the emotional side of an announcement like this, I strive to ensure I don’t let emotions interfere with my responsibility to create a logical, thoughtful, measured response that will protect the interests and needs of our community.

We became concerned that Kroger was likely to close their Darlington Avenue store several months ago, and I attempted to establish a dialogue with them to discuss our concerns. Unfortunately, my initial requests went unanswered until I was contacted and told that a decision had already been made at the corporate level. I provide this information solely to establish context, rather than cast blame.

The world around us is rapidly changing, and what has always been an ever-shifting retail landscape is becoming increasingly dynamic, confusing and complicated. There are many factors affecting the decisions businesses make regarding where to locate and operate retail offerings, and I am sure the decision to close this particular store was a complicated one. Changes to the grocery segment of retail have been especially noticeable, and communities around the country find themselves struggling to adapt. In fact, these changes have taken longer to impact our community than many others. Today, there are many competing options with fragmented grocery offerings. Our community has followed the national trend, and we now see convenience stores and discount stores dotting the landscape in much higher numbers while online shopping is also beginning to reach into the grocery market. While each of these options offers increased convenience and lower prices on certain items, we must be honest and acknowledge the fact that they have an impact on the traditional grocery store.

It is also important to remember that we live in a free-market economy, a fact that seems to be lost on people when announcements like these are made. Government doesn’t dictate to businesses where they operate, pure and simple. Businesses make their own decisions based on their ability to be profitable. Was this location truly not profitable, and did Kroger make the right decision in this case? None of us will ever truly know, but it seems unlikely any corporation would walk away from something that was turning a profit for them. We can’t boast about the great deals we got elsewhere yet react with surprise and anger when these changes are announced.

We must also not allow the emotions of the moment to cause us to lose sight of the fact that the Kroger Corporation has been a long-time partner in our community. Not only have they had a steady retail presence for decades, they have also chosen to locate one of their premier manufacturing facilities in Crawfordsville. Pace Dairy Foods is a division of Kroger, employing many of our residents in quality careers. Kroger/Pace is, undoubtedly, one of our best corporate citizens and gives much back to our community. We greatly appreciate the Kroger Corporation’s continued investment in Pace Dairy Foods and their associates, and I value the partnership we have created.

However, all of this being said, I want to reassure area residents that we are working aggressively to recruit additional grocery and retail options to our community. I understand the challenges a lack of options creates and I face the same frustrations as a consumer who shops in this community every day. While local government can’t dictate where companies choose to do business we can attempt to create the type of environment that is enticing and reasonably assures them success. We strive to do that every day and will continue to do so, but ultimately, we must all, as consumers, make certain we support the types of businesses we want to have in our community if we wish for them to succeed.

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