Report on the Closing of Springfield's S. Limestone Kroger
By Abigail Perkins
Springfield, Ohio has an incredibly rich, fruitful, and fascinating history dating all the way back to the 1800's. There has always been a strong presence of diversity, growth, and development from all components of Springfield, and thousands of people can attest to its accomplishments and improvements to the city. Despite its adoration from Springfield locals and the countless lives that have been impacted by this small city, it holds a lot of institutional issues that have led to current-day problems.
The South Side of Springfield houses thousands of Springfield residents, most of whom live in low-income households. There is only one grocery store that is directly and easily accessible to our neighbors on the South side: Kroger on South Limestone. However, on January 31, Kroger announced that it would be closing the doors of this location on March 2. the company attributes this decision as part of their “Restock Kroger” growth model, a model designed to “redefine the customer experience” and “[be able to] serve customers anything, anytime, and anywhere.” (Kroger Co. 2018). The Restock Kroger growth model is a three-year financial plan ending in 2020 in which the company is trying to generate a goal of 6.5 billion dollars in free-flow cash through various methods. They describe these methods as “process changes that [lead] to sustainable cost controls.” A year after the plan was announced, the fiscal reports were reflecting adequate goals and growth, and the company projected to meet and/or exceed their financial goals for 2019 (Kroger Co. 2018).
However, as a part of these efforts, Kroger is planning to “utilize more of its capital to fund technology and infrastructure upgrades” rather than maintain some existing locations for money saving purposes (Lawson J. 2020). This, in turn, is why the company concluded to shut down the South Limestone Kroger. In light of this decision, there have been some important repercussions that this move will initiate, and the closing of this Kroger location will severely threaten the area around it.
According the Clark County Combined Health District, most of the residency on the South side of Springfield has already been declared a food desert. A food desert is a “geographical area devoid of fresh fruit, vegetables and other healthy foods.” Not only does this mean that people without access to healthy food options will resort to fast food, convenient store food, and other unhealthy, cheap, alternatives, but this means that we have a growing population of people who identify as victims of food insecurity. The CCCHD issued a survey trying to pinpoint more accurate numbers of people affected by food insecurity, and their results showed several things: most grocery store options in Clark County (including those not affiliated with Kroger) were in neighborhoods of median to high income. And although the convenience stores that sell food merchandise around the South side do accept EBT and WIC, the prices are roughly double what they would be in grocery stores. The CCCHD has declared this food desert a public health issue. The Clark County Local Food Council also corroborates this report estimating that this “closure will leave 37% of Springfield residents, about 22,000 people, without access to fresh foods in an area already considered low-income, low-access by the USDA” (Lawson J. 2020).
In January of 2019, the Kroger location on Derr Road reopened after being closed for a 7 million-dollar renovation, a sum that does not include the plans to renovate the store on East Main Street as well (Perry P. 2019). The renovation included a Starbucks kiosk, an extensive variety of new food options, and expanded options for existing departments. During this time, the North Limestone store also shut its doors after it announced its closing in June of 2018. Patrons and people of the Springfield community were notified in June of 2018 that the North Limestone location was set to close in January of 2019. This eight-month notification is interesting compared to the one-month notification of the South Limestone location closing, especially in light of the fact that Springfield officials were told that “Kroger continually reassured [Springfield officials] they had no plans to close the South Limestone location.” (Lawson J. 2020).
Aside from these problems, there is the very practical issue of the employment that the Kroger on South Limestone occupies. The South Limestone location of Kroger employs 69 people (Lawson J. 2020). Kroger also pays above minimum wage for their employees and is one of the more well-paying jobs on that side of town. That being said, people who are currently employed will have to find other jobs and most likely endure a pay cut, or they must find the means to transfer to another Kroger store. The company offered them the choice of transferring to other locations, but this can be difficult based on the limited transportation options available.
There is a large population of residents on the south side that cannot drive themselves, or do not have means to be driven to work. Speaking conjecturally, this means that it is presumptuous to assume residents or employees will drive to other Kroger locations or other grocery stores close by for their needs- the closest grocery store being four and a half miles away, a distance unreasonable to walk. Likewise, the bus routes that run through Springfield only run until 6:30 pm. This can cause problems for those who work and don’t have time to grocery shop until after 6:30 pm, or people who are employed at the store and will not have a ride home, not to mention the difficulties of transporting groceries on the bus or on foot.
All of this being said, there is no question that this announcement of the shutdown of Kroger on South Limestone has monumental implications for the community and surrounding Springfield residents. Between the existing declaration of the South side as a food desert and the lack of options for grocery shopping, employment, and transportation, this issue has sparked a rally for the south side of Springfield and advocacy to keep Kroger from shutting down. Springfield has shown incredible unity and love for South Limestone during this time, and we do not intend to go down without a fight.
For more information, visit:
Kroger Co. (2018). Kroger to outliner restock kroger growth model at 2018 investor conference
Clark Co. Health Dis. (2020). Facebook post
Perry P. (2019). Kroger reopens derr road store after $7 million renovation
Lawson J. (2020). South limestone kroger in springfield to close march 4
Lawson J. (2020). Springfield residents fighting back after kroger announces closure
Feb. 1, 2020 Springfield News-Sun Article
Feb. 2, 2020 Springfield News-Sun Article