The Kroger Co. will open its largest store in Kentucky today in Versailles — population around 9,000 in a county of around 25,000.
This store is certainly a big shot in the arm; Versailles needs this type of growth.
Although access for groceries has not been a problem, there has been very little offering for other goods and services. Most citizens have to leave the county to satisfy their needs.
A Smith Market Research Survey done for the Woodford Economic Development Board and the Woodford County Planning Commission revealed that 75 percent of respondents wanted big-box stores.
A 2009 survey by The Lexington Bluegrass Association of Realtors revealed that 62 percent of Woodford County residents had to leave the county twice a week for essential goods and services.
The new Marketplace Kroger, located on U.S. 60, diagonally across from Lexington Road Plaza, it's present location, will hire 175 new employees, in addition to the 200 already working. The 133,000-square feet store features not only groceries, but bedding, furniture, clothing and more.
There will be a Starbucks, a 60-seat restaurant, pharmacy with two drive-through windows, and a drive-through wine and spirits shop.
Obviously, Kroger isn't depending on the local community alone to make this store a success. Versailles' location between Lexington and Frankfort, and easy access to Bluegrass Parkway, I-64 and U.S. 60, had to play a major role in the company's decision. Kroger had to see this store as a place for customers to come from surrounding communities.
The jobs created alone will be a big boost, especially for the young adults. There has been little to choose from as far as job opportunities. In addition, the hope is that out-of-town shoppers will gravitate to our downtown district and patronize local shops and restaurants. The county is also home to Woodford Reserve, Irish Acres Antiques and The Jack Jouett House Museum.
Versailles and Woodford County are known nationally and internationally for having some of the finest Thoroughbred horse farms in the world. A drive down any county road explodes with some of the most magnificent farm scenery imaginable. Roadside perimeters are lush with trees, shrubbery and flowers that many times are better than some of the finest suburban lawns.
One would be hard pressed to find any citizen who isn't proud of those farms. Allowing Versailles to grow with shopping plazas and centers will in no way harm or detract from the rural farm community. There is more than enough available land to continue this growth.
A nice beginning would be to finish the proposed new Versailles Northwest Corridor (bypass). It would greatly enhance the transportation capabilities, in addition to providing a safer motorist environment. It would discourage tractor-trailer rigs and pass-through motorists from entering downtown.
Now, if we could just get Lowes or Home Depot to occupy the old Kroger. And an Applebees or O'Charley's, and maybe a Walmart.