Business

Construction work has stopped at Romany Road grocery store site. Here’s why.

Jake Jennings of Laurel Foods attached a banner announcing the coming of the Market at Romany Road as Martin Cox, owner of Cox Foods, right, looked on. Cox owns 11 other IGA stores in southeastern Kentucky.
Jake Jennings of Laurel Foods attached a banner announcing the coming of the Market at Romany Road as Martin Cox, owner of Cox Foods, right, looked on. Cox owns 11 other IGA stores in southeastern Kentucky. cbertram@herald-leader.com

The long-awaited return of a grocery store in the Romany Road neighborhood is about to begin: Martin Cox, who is building the IGA grocery, said last week that the demolition phase of the old Kroger has ended and that new construction may start by the end of the year.

“Tentatively, we are scheduled to open in late spring of 2018,” Cox said. “We are working on our final architectural drawings.”

The final store, which will be called Market at Romany Road, will be about 26,000 square feet and will be much different from the other 11 IGA stores that Cox Foods runs in southeastern Kentucky in Manchester, Hindman, Salyersville and Jackson.

“This one will have much larger perishable departments with meat, deli and produce being emphasized heavily,” Cox said. That emphasis, plus customer service and competitive pricing, will be key to cracking Lexington’s competitive grocery market, which already includes Kroger, Walmart, Whole Foods, Good Foods Co-op, The Fresh Market, Meijer, Lucky’s Market, and Save-A-Lot.

The store will have national name-brand items and IGA private label products. This will be the first expansion into Lexington for Cox Foods and for Laurel Grocery, a London-based distribution firm that serves independent grocers. More IGA stores are possible, if the market surveys indicate room to expand, Cox said.

To get ideas for how to frame this store, Cox has visited upscale IGA stores in Colorado and Washington state, he said.

“It will be more of a hybrid conventional grocery store,” Cox said, “with more of an emphasis on perishables.”

The store will have about 20,000 products; for now, there will not be a wine and spirits store, which must have a separate entrance. The market will have floral, produce, deli, bakery, fresh meats and seafood, as well as traditional packaged and frozen goods.

The configuration of the store will put produce and deli up front, putting an emphasis on quick-serve. Martin Cox’s brother, Tate Cox, will be the manager in charge of perishables, and he’ll be at the store daily.

Kroger closed the Romany Road store in September 2015, pulling a cornerstone from the Chevy Chase neighborhood.

Kip Faulhaber, spokesman for Laurel Foods, said the store “will allow the neighbors to recapture what they had and even more ... he can go as upscale as needed.”

Laurel, which has been in business since 1922, has announced that it is moving its twice-annual food show for independent grocers to Lexington’s convention center, with the first one planned for February. Laurel serves 250-plus stores in nine states, with Cox Foods being their largest client.

Cox Foods plans to hire 80 to 100 people for the store, with interviews likely to begin after the first of the year.

The new grocery isn’t the only big change for the neighborhood: A restaurant, The Bridge, which serves pizza and Mediterranean food, is opening soon; the store across Romany that was formerly Orange Leaf frozen yogurt is becoming an expanded compounding section for Wheeler Pharmacy; and on Duke Road behind the shopping district, two buildings have been demolished to make way for a new 18-bed rest home, Duke Road Personal Care.

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