Kroger (and ex-Kroger) stores in southern West Virginia

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Andrew T.
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Kroger (and ex-Kroger) stores in southern West Virginia

Post by Andrew T. »

I recently decided to photograph a few of the older Kroger stores in my general area:

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To begin, here's a picture of the original storefront Kroger on Mercer Street in Princeton, WV. This store was replaced by a more modern supermarket up a couple blocks in the late '50s or early '60s; now sadly demolished.

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Princeton, WV Kroger store number two lasted until approximately 1977, when this new superstore opened on Stafford Drive. This location was relatively short-lived, lasting under a decade in operation.
This store is noteworthy from a historical standpoint because in spite of the fact that it hasn't housed a supermarket in over two decades, there are still some '70s Kroger interior decor elements intact (I'll be posting a new photo to that thread soon). Incidentally, this is the only Big Lots store I've seen that carries the title of "Big & Small Lots."

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This larger greenhouse store replaced the prior Princeton superstore in around 1984. I've mentioned this store one or two times before, and have plenty of childhood memories of going there. Unfortunately for originality, however, the store was expanded and extensively renovated in 1999. At least the greenhouse glass (and one of the two Kroger cubes by the entrances) remains intact...

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Moving north to Beckley near the dead Raleigh Mall, we find yet another '70s superstore now housing a Big Lots. It's much the same story as above; although this store lacks the intact interior decor and has slightly different exterior details.

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In Hinton, WV we discover yet another '70s superstore; although unlike the prior two, this one remains in operation. Next door is an attached Magic Mart with similar brick facing; although I suspect it may have been something else originally. Both stores are located on the banks of the New River (This is the view across the street). I can't imagine a more picturesque location for a grocery store.

The aisles in this store are very narrow. As with practically every other still-extant Kroger store around here, the interior has been remodeled into the late '90s/early '00s "green, orange, and white with chunky fonts, scripts, and fragile-looking banners" style. The original exterior has been altered slightly as well. At least the original superstore floor tiles are (mostly) intact...

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This nice-looking '80s greenhouse store (complete with a mini-greenhouse for the attached CVS Pharmacy, née SuperX) is in Beaver, WV. The interior has been remodeled into (what else?) the late '90s/early '00s style, although most of the original floor tiles and refrigerator cases are intact. It's ironic to note that in spite of the attached drugstore, this Kroger also features an in-store pharmacy of its own. (I wouldn't be surprised if they knocked out Barney's Cafe in order to cram it in.)

Feel free to leave any comments you might have. There's more to come...eventually!
"The pale pastels which have been featured in most food stores during the past 20 years are no longer in tune with the mood of the 1970s."
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Re: Kroger (and ex-Kroger) stores in southern West Virginia

Post by jimbobga »

Good job, Andrew!

That "Kroger Co." sign has been up on that original Kroger building for 50 years now. I'm wondering if the old Kroger in Pocahontas still has any evidence of a sign from about the same time. It was there the last time I looked [about 2000], although the store must have closed in the early 50's.

You probably remember the second Kroger, located where the Post Office was - or is, but in case you don't, it really didn't have a whole lot of Kroger architechural features that would be missed. The North Avenue Kroger in Bluefield can still be identified as a fromer Kroger in places, but the Princeton store was mainly a wide, narrow pinkish brick building, plain plate-glass windows, and, from what I can remember, individual block letters spelling out K R O G E R . I do seem to remember one of those tall, narrow pinched-off ended signs out by the street. The store itself just seemed to be missing its shopping center. I still wish it were there, though.

Thanks!
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Re: Kroger (and ex-Kroger) stores in southern West Virginia

Post by krogerclerk »

The superstore exterior seems to stand up well today as the Hinton, WV shot shows. Hinton's signage has obviously been updated along with someother alterations, and the store seems to use a lighter brick than most superstores, though that could be the lighting. The different exterior of the Beckley and Princeton superstores may be due to dating to a different year or use of a different contractor. Overall superstore exterior details didn't differ as much over time as greenhouse details have, as earlier greenhouse stores had a smaller greenhouse while the greehouse grew to cover moref the facades after 1983, and the end supports were more flush with the slope of the greenhouse. Also, greenhouse exteriors varied from busted block in white or tan or lighter shades of brick. Also, many earlier greenhouse stores were similar in size to most superstores, seeming to be built in 3 primary size prototypes btween 35k and 50k while after 1983, few were smaller than 45k.

Both the original superstore and greenhouse interiors did not age as well as their exteriors and definitely reflect the era of their design. I think a Detroit area Kroger has even been remodeled back to a "retro superstore", having been Great Scott in the 80's and having its superstore exterior remodeled, then returned to a superstore in the mid-90's. Most remodels to the mauve and grid interior of the earlier 90's and the millenium interior of the late 90's and early 00's seem out of step with the overall design elements of superstores and greenhouse stores. Greenhouse interiors did translate effectively on superstores that received such remodels in the 80's, I guess its just that earth tones seem to complement the two designs better even if appearing dated. Kroger seems to not update lighting and flooring in the stores which often makes the interior remodels less effective than new contstruction stores utilizing the same interior themes, great for retail architecture buffs, but not so great with presenting an updated appearance to the masses.
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Re: Kroger (and ex-Kroger) stores in southern West Virginia

Post by Andrew T. »

Thanks Jim and Krogerclerk for your informative replies, as always!

One detail about both the Hinton and Beaver stores that I found curious was that in their last remodeling jobs, the floor tiles had been resurfaced in the produce section only.
"The pale pastels which have been featured in most food stores during the past 20 years are no longer in tune with the mood of the 1970s."
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Re: Kroger (and ex-Kroger) stores in southern West Virginia

Post by krogerclerk »

The retiling of the produce department is likely a slip resistant tiling used in most late 90's-early 00's Kroger stores, possibly facilitated if the cases had been replaced or reangled, necessitating new tiling.

Also, the Mart Mart looks like a Hills, but somewhat small. Roses had stores that size, but usually didn't use a dark tone of brick, though, most strips built with a superstore did follow the superstore theme more often than not.
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Re: Kroger (and ex-Kroger) stores in southern West Virginia

Post by Andrew T. »

I'd like to continue this thread with a second (and, unfortunately, final) installment in the series:

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This store is located in Bluewell, West Virginia, and is another example from the "dual greenhouse" school of design. This store is a bit smaller and most likely older than either the Princeton or Beaver greenhouses, with a narrower slanted-glass portion and round ceiling ventilators inside similar to those in many superstores. The original adjacent SuperX now houses a thrift shop (of all things); meanwhile, an in-store pharmacy was somehow crammed inside the main grocery after the fact. Interior decor is of the late '90s/early '00s style.

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The story of this store is probably best told by Jim:
jimbobga wrote:I had thought that this was a Kroger, but after a trip this week to Bluefield, WV, I'm sure of it. There is an identical store on North Avenue in Bluefield that Kroger opened probably around 1958. The barrel roof is not visible from the side, but at the back where nothing has been added by later occupants, the barrel roof is still visible. This store replaced a store-front Kroger in the middle of the downtown retail area. The new store was located not on a main street, but pretty much in the middle of a residential area of four-square homes. Over the next few years, two blocks surrounding this area were a 50's version of "mixed-use," as a house would be torn down to be replaced by a modern last-fifties retail store with a few parking places in the front. These houses and store buildings still exist. The Kroger closed when Bluefield's first shopping center opened on Cumberland Road, and Kroger still operates there today.
The quote in question was from the "Wilkesboro and North Wilkesboro NC" thread, and indeed this brown-brick, barrel-roofed box does bear a passing resemblance to this store in that town. The higher brick facing of the Bluefield store means that the two aren't quite identical, but I'm sure both could have easily passed off as Kroger stores at some former point in time.

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Finally, here's the aforementioned newer Bluefield, West Virginia store on Cumberland Road. This store is surprisingly old as far as still-extant Krogers go; dating back (I believe) to the late sixties. Although the exterior has obviously been renovated, numerous older details are visible closer up: Original aluminum-frame doors (!); thick-framed, incandescent "Exit" signs, and some cases that might well be original.

Although ostensibly predating the superstore era, this store has a very superstore-like interior layout; complete with mezzanine windows overlooking the deli. Floor tile is plain white, with a thin orange stripe running parallel to the back wall. The adjacent retail space has been annexed for an in-store pharmacy, and the wall between is still largely intact.

Somewhat interestingly (and annoyingly), all the still-operational Kroger stores I visited (Princeton, Hinton, Beaver, Bluewell, Bluefield) featured the late '90s/early '00s millennium interior decor. I was hoping one of the smaller-town stores would feature the early '90s grid decor within (my hopes of finding an intact '80s decor package this side of the Ohio river vanished long ago), but I suppose Kroger has been aggressive in this market area in keeping things up-to-date...

Enjoy!
"The pale pastels which have been featured in most food stores during the past 20 years are no longer in tune with the mood of the 1970s."
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Re: Kroger (and ex-Kroger) stores in southern West Virginia

Post by jimbobga »

What a great picture of the Cumberland Road store. The picture makes it look as though the shopping center was shoved up against a mountain, but in actuality, four-laned, limited-access US 460 runs behind the store a short way up the East River Mountain. As for changes in the facade, about the only difference is the addition of the tower. Originally, the store front was 60's-plain, with blue KROGER letters spelled out across the front to the left of the current sign tower. There was a rotating oval Kroger sign out next to the highway, and for a while, one side of the sign said Superx Drugs. The Superx store was not connected to the Kroger store, but was just to the right of the store. This center was built with Kroger at the east end, and a large [for Bluefield ] Grant's at the west end.

As for the Bluewell store...I remember that the Princeton store on Stafford Drive was built prior to the Bluewell store. The Princeton store was not originally a greenhouse store, and I can remember it being almost doubled in size at some point. At almost the same time, a store identical to the Bluewell store was built in the southern part of Bluefield, VA, to replace an older 50's-era pink brick store a block off Main Street. It has been closed for some time.

The interesting spin on the Bluewell store was in the way they advertised the new location. Kroger had been the main grocery chain in the larger towns in the coalfields since the 40's. There were store-front "supermarkets" in Welch, Keystone, Kimball, as well as a "suburban" store in the Coney Island section of Welch. They maintained their last store on Main Street [US 52] in a 3-bay pieced-together store-front in Northfork. The Bluewell store was hyped in McDowell County as "your new Kroger." This new store was not just across town, though, but 15 miles away in Mercer County. Bluewell/Bluefield are not really a part of the coalfields but were, at that time, service-oriented and distribution areas. McDowell Countians are a proud lot, and when Kroger finally left their county, they abandoned Kroger in the same way that Kroger abandoned them. The only thing left was Deskin's, an 8-store chain that, while having stores in Bluefield, Princeton, and Richlands, got its start in tiny English, WV.

At one point, just to the left [west] of the Bluewell Kroger store was a Heck's, which was the Bluefield's second Heck's location.

Now go hunting for the old A&P in Bluefield, VA. It's still there!
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Re: Kroger (and ex-Kroger) stores in southern West Virginia

Post by krogerclerk »

Beaver/Beckley and Bluefield and Princeton are practically Kroger "museums". There is probably not such a concentration of recognizable ex-Kroger and current operating Kroger locations in such a close proximity outside of longstanding Kroger urban strongholds in Ohio or Kentucky, and even there the recognizable would be an operative word, as most have either been razed or altered beyond recognition. Much of Kroger operating areas in the South and Midwest are regions were only the old survives in the "less desirable" areas while viable areas have the if it's old it's obsolete development mindset.
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Re: Kroger (and ex-Kroger) stores in southern West Virginia

Post by wvwag29 »

The Bluefield, Cumberland Road Kroger does have a "superstore" layout, it's awesome. It feels like your are taking a step back in time just going through the doors. The store was remodled and renovated between 1999-2001 (?) The cube above the entrance bearing the Kroger and Rx signage was not there prior to renovation and I can't remember what it was like (that's sad). The old SupeRx store is now a part of Kroger even though the wall is still intact minus an opening at each end for traffic flow. I loved going in there because it was "vintage". Before the renovation the front-end was still earth-toned colored and the safe at the customer service desk was in plain sight (HELLO). If memory serves there were two levels at the service desk an upper level where cash accountability may have taken place and a lower level for customer care. Also, this store (I think) was the last store in the immediate area to make the change over from the older NCR registers to the more common IBM's you see in most retail stores (one particular reason I liked going there).

The greenhouse Kroger across the state line in Bluefield VA was still in original "greenhouse" condition with signage, color-scheme and layout the last time I went in before it closed. I am going to check it out and get some pics if it is still "vintage". More than likely it didn't survive the millineum updo but one can hope.
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Re: Kroger (and ex-Kroger) stores in southern West Virginia

Post by carolinatraveler »

FROM AN EARLIER POST
"That "Kroger Co." sign has been up on that original Kroger building for 50 years now. I'm wondering if the old Kroger in Pocahontas still has any evidence of a sign from about the same time. It was there the last time I looked [about 2000], although the store must have closed in the early 50's."


I was in Pocahontas today, with the specific thought in mind of locating what had been a Kroger in what must have been the most unusual setting they ever operated a store. I found no evidence of a Kroger, indeed much of the business district of Pocahontas is in ruins. Such a shame, as this was once a bustling town. Can anyone give me a clue as to which building housed the Kroger?

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Re: Kroger (and ex-Kroger) stores in southern West Virginia

Post by jimbobga »

I'm having to picture something as I remember it from about 1965. I can remember what the building looked like, but I can't positively place which side of the street it was on. The store would have been located on either the northeast corner of Center and Church Streets. The building was one of those two-story brick building with apartments on the second floor. The Kroger sign was painted at the top, much as in the first Princeton picture in this post.

While it may seem to have been an odd place for a Kroger...it wasn't. During the boom days in the coalfields, many towns had outgrown the "coal camp" designation and had become "service towns" for the area. Pocahontas - the town where the southern West Virginia coalfields had their beginnings in the late 1800's - would have had a population of about 2500 in 1950 prior to the closing of the mines. Additionally, "coal camp" towns lined up along the railroads and roads in the area, providing three or four thousand more people from five or six miles in each direction. So...in most of these towns you would find Kroger and A&P, in addition to numerous local grocery chains [Acme, Deskins, Piggly Wiggly]...as well as possibly a "flagship" branch of the company store. It also seemed like every one of these towns had a G.C. Murphy, which was the only variety store with branches in the area.

I was in Pocahontas about ten years ago, and I remember that in many cases the storefronts were standing, but other parts of the buildings had caved in. If the building which housed the Kroger was still standing, the sign painted at the top of the building had long-ago faded away.
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Re: Kroger (and ex-Kroger) stores in southern West Virginia

Post by carolinatraveler »

I have Bluefield area phone books from 1942, 1953, 1955, 1964 and some later. The Kroger in Pocahontas appears only in 1953 and 1955, with a simple "Main Street" listing. Last week, however, I found much of downtown Pocahontas, unfortunately, in ruins, and the Kroger building is likely lost, along with some of the most stunning architecture I've seen anywhere in the coal camp towns.
Pocahontas was obviously at one time a very progressive boomtown, and probably less of a company town than some others in the region. What struck me as strange about having a chain store there, of any kind, was the fact that is was essentially a "one sided" town - that is, the main road did not go all the way through and on to other towns (like those along US 52), but rather was served only by secondary roads except in the one direction towards Bluefield, VA. Most chain stores based distribution on a "connect-the-dots" routing, making supervision and deliveries more efficient. I suppose the situation would be the same in "dead end" coastal areas (think Cape Cod or the Florida Keys) where eventually the roads ran out at water's edge. Most of the "one sided" coal camp towns were served only by company stores.
I have long been a student of the history and architecture of the coal camp towns and found Pocahontas a fascinating place, and was saddened by such historical loss there.
By the way, Deskins has been mentioned several times in these posts. I belive they are all gone now, due to a bankruptcy several years ago. In the Bluefield-Princeton area several former Acme locations were now Allens, but they seemed to be going strong under that name.

Wayne Henderson
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Re: Kroger (and ex-Kroger) stores in southern West Virginia

Post by jimbobga »

You're right about the architecture in Pocahontas; since it began in the late 1800's, much of the architecture - including commercial buildings downtown - were Victorian. I was about right in estimating when Kroger closed. Sometime within the last 50 years the name of the street was changed, or it was just listed in the phone directory as being on "Main Street" since in many towns in this area, Main Street often had two names, as in "the main street is Center Street."

As for the odd location for a Kroger because of it being stuck "out on the edge:" this store probably opened in the thirties, if not earlier. The main road [ US 52 ] from Bluefield to Welch and points west did go through Pocahontas, albeit just on the edge of town. The "new" US Highway 52 over Flat Top Mountain bypassed Pocahontas in the forties.

More than likely, the Pocahontas store never really made it to the supermarket stage. Like the other stores in McDowell County - with the exception of those in Welch - they were self-service, and had a couple of cash registers at the front. but there appeared to be no meat department. Customers still went to the back of the store and had the butcher cut their meat choices for them. [ the horror! ] The check-outs were not automated, but did offer a modern conveyor-belt type of apparatus which made it easier on both the customer and the cashier. The customer placed their groceries on a counter, the top of which was basically a long wooden crate with the end next to the cash register cut out. This box fit down in grooves in the top of the counter. The cashier would grab a handle and pull the grocery-laden crate toward the register.
I will be in the area in November...I think it's time for some pictures.
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Re: Kroger (and ex-Kroger) stores in southern West Virginia

Post by Bearhawke »

There was a Kroger in West Charleston back in the 1960's N of Kanawha Blvd and just W of the Elk River/Pennsylvania Ave. It apparently is now a Post Office.
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Re: Kroger (and ex-Kroger) stores in southern West Virginia

Post by wvwag29 »

Just a note on the Cumberland Road Kroger in Bluefield, WV. Press release from Kroger in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph confirms that as of March 30 the Bluefield, WV Cumberland Road Kroger will close.
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