The last day for the Kroger on Euclid Avenue before its demolition and reconstruction was a final farewell where paying respects came with 30 to 50 percent off select items.
There were hugs, as customers said goodbye to favorite employees.
There was a little bit of sniffling and a few teary eyes as people shared their memories of a store that despite being small, crowded and a crapshoot at which to park, served as a University of Kentucky-area community center.
And there was food — an enormous red-white-and-blue-frosted cake — to thank customers for their patronage.
On the last day the store was to be open, customers could not really do a regular shopping trip. Some cases were empty. The salad bar was gone. Frozen pizza was not to be found, the beer selection was skimpy and the soda selection was even worse. The Red Box DVD rental kiosk had been emptied and shut off.
But there were major deals on produce, bakery items, frozen foods, packaged bread and dairy items. Organization was a bit haphazard, as a basket at one aisle's end included a roll of summer sausage, packages of Rit Dye and jars of cocktail sauce.
"This is just to say goodbye," Carol Vaughan of Lexington said of her morning trip down the half-empty aisles. "I'm in here three or four times a week and have been for years. It's just a last look."
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Vaughan called several Kroger employees "angels," including one of the store's cart-wranglers, of whom she is very fond.
Vaughan, a dedicated Kroger shopper, said she also likes the Kroger on Romany Road and will go to the massive Kroger on Richmond Road for hard-to-find items and gasoline.
Azia Bishop, a player on the UK women's basketball team, said the store had been her go-to point for groceries.
"I just came to see the last things I could get on sale," Bishop said. "I love Kroger and all the deals they have."
She'll turn to the Wal-Mart on New Circle Road until the Kroger on Euclid returns.
The old store, which opened in 1976 on the former site of a fabric store, will be torn down in a few weeks. Construction will begin on a new Kroger in the spring. The new store should open by the end of 2014.
In the meanwhile, Kroger will run free hourly shuttles to its Chinoe Road store from the Lextran bus shelter across the street from the Euclid store site. A second pickup location will be at the corner of Rose Street and Avenue of Champions at five minutes after each hour.
The first shuttle is scheduled for noon March 16; it will run every hour until 7 p.m., with the last drop-off at 8 p.m. The shuttle will run every day.
"We have a great team of associates at the Euclid Kroger store, but unfortunately we are limited by the outdated facility," said Tim McGurk, Kroger's spokesman for the Mid-South region. "We believe grocery shoppers in this part of Lexington deserve a much better option. When it opens, our new Euclid Avenue Kroger will be the finest and most unique grocery store in the region."
The rebuilt Kroger will have a drive-through pharmacy and 86,000 square feet of space, up from the current 38,000. It will offer 130,000 items, up from the current 80,000.
Steve Cox, whose regular Kroger store is on Chinoe, was in the Euclid neighborhood and needed trash bags on Saturday. Once inside, he decided to take advantage of some discount produce, including carrots to feed to a horse when he went horseback riding later.
Rosa Snow was looking for deals at the store at which she had shopped for 20 years.
Snow recently moved closer to the Richmond Road Kroger, but she said she thinks it isn't as conveniently organized.
"That store is too big for me," she said. "You've got to walk cross-country. I feel lost there."
Dorotha Smith Oatts — after whom the Dorotha Smith Oatts Visitors Center at the Arboretum is named — said that she was in the Euclid neighborhood and wanted to stop by "to see what the situation was."
She will shop at the Romany store now.
"I've been a longtime Kroger person," she said.
Cheryl Truman: (859)231-3202. Twitter: @CherylTruman.