The Kroger store on Romany Road in Lexington will close Sept. 12, officials announced Friday. Kroger spokesman Tim McGurk called the closing a "difficult decision."
The store has long had a cult following of sorts among Chevy Chase residents and other affluent shoppers, who liked its smaller size and more intimate feel; employees knew customers by name.
Mayor Jim Gray issued a statement Friday afternoon saying the city is working to encourage that the building be occupied with a new tenant "just as soon as possible."
"We're encouraged," Gray wrote. "It's a vibrant and appealing neighborhood."
Rob Rosenstein of Rosenstein Development, which manages the property where the store is located, said that Kroger has a lease on the property for at least another year.
"We would like to see Kroger work with the landlord to keep the property from being dark for too long," Rosenstein said, adding his mother shops there, as do her friends in the neighborhood, so he sees its importance as a community center for the area.
"At this point we are open to any and all suggestions," Rosenstein said. There has already been interest in the property, but it was too early to identify any of those who expressed interest, he added.
When the store, a longtime Randall's, became a Kroger in 1995, customers shot off Silly String and drank champagne to mark its passing. Some jokingly called it the "Gucci grocery" because of its well-heeled clientele.
Iconic Kentucky author and agrarian advocate Wendell Berry spoke at a 1995 "Save the Randall's Rally" on Romany Road, warning of "monopoly in the Lexington food economy."
"If you have no choice, you have no power, no meaningful political freedom — no matter how much money you've got," Berry said then.
More recently, the Romany Road store, along with the Kroger on Chinoe Road, was open 24 hours a day to accommodate shoppers who awaited the opening of the rebuilt Kroger on Euclid Avenue.
"This is no reflection on the 103 associates who work at this store," McGurk wrote. "They will all be offered similar employment at other Lexington area Kroger stores. ... This is not a decision that the company wanted to make."
Earlier this year, Kroger opened a new state-of-the-art store on Euclid Avenue, a mile from the Romany Road store. Just last week, Kroger had a grand reopening for its Chinoe Road store, which is 1.8 miles from the Romany store.
"We are in the business of opening stores and making them thrive," McGurk wrote. "Unfortunately, this store has lost significant money since 2008, and its trend for the future appears even more bleak. We simply see no way to reverse that."
The Romany Road store is significantly smaller than other Kroger stores. McGurk said it had only 25,000 square feet, 18,000 of it on the sales floor.
Kentucky's largest Kroger, which opened in July in Versailles, has 133,000 square feet, and the Kroger stores in Beaumont and on Richmond Road trail the Versailles square footage only slightly. The new Kroger on Euclid has 86,000 square feet.
The Versailles store offers online shopping, a practice that is planned to include stores in Lexington and elsewhere in Kentucky.
McGurk wrote that Kroger "remains committed to the Lexington community. The company has invested over $30 million this year to open the new Euclid Avenue store and modernize the Chinoe Road and Boston Road stores."