VERSAILLES — Kentucky's biggest Kroger opens Thursday morning, so get your walking shoes ready.
The new store measures 500 feet wide. At 133,000 square feet, it's about 8,000 square feet bigger than the large Kroger stores on Richmond Road and at Beaumont. The aisles are between 8-9 feet wide, about 18 inches wider than most area Kroger stores.
A separate Kroger wine and liquor store is opening next door. Next week the store expects to begin offering an online ordering and pickup system.
On Wednesday, the day before opening of the new store, the feeling is one of chaos: Many items are still being loaded in, and the prep work is getting some noisy final touches.
"This is the normal day before," said Tim McGurk, Kroger's regional public affairs manager for the Louisville division. "By 8 in the morning it will be ready."
Artist Debbie Graviss took a moment Wednesday to sign her horse-themed mural at the store's entrance. Another mural, by artist Damon Farmer, portrays various Woodford County landmarks such as The Castle (along with a delightful waving raccoon on a dry-stone fence) and covers a wall around the cafe seating inside the store.
The former Kroger grocery store, which was 80,000 square feet and is a few thousand feet away and across the street, was still open Wednesday.
Shoppers enter the store to case after case of produce that includes what appears to be a lane of apples as wide as a highway, and in the distance a full wall of lettuce.
The produce department even has two jackfruits, which are prickly delicacies about the size of a watermelon and allegedly tasting like pineapple and mango.
In the dairy area of the store, there is almost a full wall of yogurt products; a full aisle of bulk items also awaits, along with an olive oil station featuring such items as olive oil with blood orange.
To the left is Murray's Cheese Shop, stocking such delicacies as espresso-dusted bellavitano and "drunken goat" cheese. A large sushi kitchen is located on the way to an area that offers prepared food including barbecue, made-to-order pizza and burritos. A Starbucks and Athenian Grill will also be open in the front of the store.
The store also has a casual clothing department for men, women and children, which the store will be promoting with coupons.
A seasonal corner in the back of the store will house items such as back-to-school and, in a few months, Christmas items. A permanent toy department will also draw interest among families.
The store also stocks cookware and dishes; part of an aisle is devoted to office items and small electronics.
Soft goods such as throw pillows are also available, as is a novelty chair that appears to be a cross between a papasan chair and a set of bungee cords.
The building's skylights will help with the building's energy cost, turning off some of the fluorescent lights when the sun is bright enough, McGurk said.
Steve Childers, a dairy manager who has worked at the old Euclid Avenue store in Lexington and at the old Versailles Kroger, surveyed his huge new aisles, packed with juice and milk.
"This is the cat's meow," he said.
McGurk said guides would be on hand for Thursday shoppers to help them find what they're looking for "and perhaps a few things they weren't looking for."
Asked his favorite thing about the huge Kroger, McGurk said he is proudest of "the team — the way the associates have embraced such a huge task. ... They can't wait to show the customers what they've created."
This is the second new Kroger that has opened in the Lexington area in 2015. A new Kroger opened in January near the University of Kentucky campus.