Kroger Family Centers

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Kroger Family Centers

Postby wnetmacman » 30 Jan 2008 04:04

In the late 60's/early 70's, Kroger built a type of store called Kroger Family Center. They were larger than the typical Kroger of the time, running approximately 70,000 sq. ft. I know these stores existed in at least the following locations:

Mattoon, IL (E. IL 16, now Big Lots)
Lafayette, LA (Downtown, half torn down, the rest now a postal facility)
New Iberia, LA (between E. Main and E. St Peter streets, now a bowling alley and a local grocery)
Morgan City, LA (Brashear Ave.; was last a Canal Villere; abandoned)
Lake Charles, LA (E. Sallier St., Still operates as a Kroger)
Orange, TX (N. 16th St., Still operates as a Kroger)
Longview, TX (W. Marshall Ave., Still operates as a Kroger Signature store)
Marshall, TX (East End Blvd., Still operates as a Kroger Signature store)

These stores are a quite distinctive architecture. They were of tilt wall construction, with a covered walkway at the front made usually of concrete. Some of these stores still have this walkway (Longview lost the walkway with the greenhouse-style remodel). They were usually wider than they were deep. All of them had a full service restaurant, deli, bakery, pharmacy, and the works. Does anyone know of any more of these?

(if I've put this in the wrong category, let me know. It straddles southeast and southwest.)
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Re: Kroger Family Centers

Postby Groceteria » 30 Jan 2008 09:29

I'd love to see pictures of any of these buildings. Do any of them still have relatively intact exteriors?

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Re: Kroger Family Centers

Postby wnetmacman » 30 Jan 2008 10:13

The exteriors on Morgan City, Orange, Lake Charles and New Iberia are relatively intact. The last time I was there (+/- 13 years ago), Mattoon is still intact. Marshall had a greenhouse added in the 80's. Longview's entire facade was removed and replaced in 1982-1983, and that was remodeled 2 years ago. Next time I'm near New Iberia (the closest store) or Lake Charles (the most preserved of all) I'll see if I can get a picture or several pictures.
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Re: Kroger Family Centers

Postby krogerclerk » 01 Feb 2008 10:16

I wasn't aware of a Kroger Family Center in Mattoon, IL as all the rest were operated as part of the Houston division and with the exception of Longview and Marshall, TX were near the Gulf coast.
I believe the concept was very similar to the Kroger Sav-on concept and used similar architecture to the Lancaster, OH Kroger Sav-on and several Kroger Sav-on locations in the Carolinas division that were constructed before the greenhouse era. Two Kroger Sav-ons are still in use in Savannah, Mall Boulevard and Victory Drive. Mattoon, IL was part of the Central(Indianapolis) division which otherwise used the Kroger Sav-on format in Fort Wayne and Defiance, OH. Very few of the Family Centers and Sav-ons are still operating as a Kroger though many stand.

I believe the Kroger Family Center stores were merchandised with more basic clothing-such as men's underwear and t-shirts and the occasional seasonal apparel such as jackets, in addition to women's hosiery that is generally the only clothing accessory found in a supermarket. Also, I selection of LPs and tapes were sold near the tobacco/film counters, also found in some older Skaggs Albertson's and A&P Family Marts of the era. I think Eagle Food Centers also merchandised along these lines, which may have been the impetus for the Mattoon location. The Kroger MarketPlace, Fry's MarketPlace, and Smith's MarketPlace is basically a 21st century version of this concept. Kroger Signature is primarily a Texas format for the most upscale Kroger stores, being an earlier attempt(c.90's) of what is now the Kroger Fresh Fare format that was adopted from the Ralphs' Fresh Fare.

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Re: Kroger Family Centers

Postby Groceteria » 01 Feb 2008 11:18

krogerclerk wrote:I believe the Kroger Family Center stores were merchandised with more basic clothing-such as men's underwear and t-shirts and the occasional seasonal apparel such as jackets, in addition to women's hosiery that is generally the only clothing accessory found in a supermarket. Also, I selection of LPs and tapes were sold near the tobacco/film counters.


They sound almost identical to A&P's original Family Mart concept.

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Re: Kroger Family Centers

Postby wnetmacman » 01 Feb 2008 23:17

I forgot two stores:

Nacogdoches, TX (North St., Still a Kroger)
Baytown, TX (Ward at S. Alexander, Still a Kroger, but with a different facade)

Local.live.com has the Baytown store on the Bird's Eye view. Here is a picture:

http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v=2&cp=nypzn172mk69&style=o&lvl=2&tilt=-90&dir=0&alt=-1000&scene=10465919&encType=1
Note the large pylon sign. Pre-greenhouse it would have had the Famiy Center in the two lower signs.

What's left of the Lafayette store is also. Half of the store was demolished in favor of a Multimoddal Transportation Depot (read train and bus station). You can see half of the facade, however.

http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v=2&cp=p141m779yw54&style=o&lvl=1&tilt=-90&dir=0&alt=-1000&scene=8874350&encType=1

I also drove through Morgan City tonight. The store is still there and still abandoned, but the parking lot is now a used car lot. The sign is still standing, and until recently, still had the Canal Villere/National logo on it.

During the time of their construction, these stores were in several different divisions. Longview, Marshall and Nacogdoches were in the Dallas division. The remainder of the TX and LA stores were in the Houston division. Mattoon has not been a Kroger in over 30 years. The first trip I made to Mattoon in 1979 (at age 7) had the store as a 3D Discount Center. The only difference between the Kroger Family Center sign and the 3D sign was that 3D had gone out of the way to match the font on Center with Discount, and had filled the Kroger oval with the 3D logo. The 3D chain was bought out by Big Lots.

As stated above, initially, the stores had an apparel section, and were essentially a supercenter concept. Half of these stores would be blocked off on any given Sunday because of the Blue Laws in TX and LA. It was interesting to navigate, especially because the specialty departments surrounded the peripheral areas of the store. Also, these were among the first stores in these areas to be equipped with a pharmacy, deli and bakery, in addition to a sit-down restaurant. When I get the chance, I'll draw up a diagram of the initial floorplan. Longview is not a good example, because it was gutted with the greenhouse remodel, and modified with the Signature remodel. Marshall, Lake Charles and Orange are still using the original peripheral floorplan. Lake Charles is the most preserved, having only changed the decor package. Hopefully I can get some pictures soon.
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Re: Kroger Family Centers

Postby krogerclerk » 01 Feb 2008 23:58

Add Paducah, KY as having a Kroger Family Center. Currently Paduch has 3 Kroger locations and is operated out of the Delta(Memphis) division. The store was fairly large and opened around 1972 or 1973 just as the Kroger superstore format was being rolled out. I knew I had seen a Kroger Family Center away from its Gulf coast concentration and finally recalled the location. It closed as a Kroger sometime in the mid-80's and not having been to Paducah in quite sometime don't know the status.

It seems that most of the Kroger Family Centers were either in peripheral markets beyond the pirmary market core or an expansion market. Houston and Dallas would have received superstores with outlying towns got the Family Center, though Baytown is a fairly close-in suburb by Houston standards. Many existing markets in which a traditional Kroger was replaced by a Family Center were marginal markets for the company-LaFayette and New Iberia, LA for instance. As a whole I think the concept had mixed results as some Kroger Family Centers have continued to operate as a Kroger, but moved away from the general merchandising strategy while many were closed or replaced with a more conventional Kroger.

Forerunners to supercenters appeared around the country in the 60's and 70's but most didn't last beyond that period. Schwegmann's, Smitty's, Fred Meyer and Meijer pulled off these types of stores more successfully with Schwegmann's being the only one of these chains to fold, being absorbed by A&P's New Orleans division in the late 90's while Fred Meyer eventually came to own Smitty's(AZ) which would merge with Kroger and hence the current Kroger MarketPlace format and Meijer has become the second largest supercenter operator, after Wally World. With the exception of Schwegmann's, the other three took a more upscale approach than most of the failed supercenter concepts.

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Re: Kroger Family Centers

Postby wnetmacman » 02 Feb 2008 00:14

It seems that most of the Kroger Family Centers were either in peripheral markets beyond the pirmary market core or an expansion market. Houston and Dallas would have received superstores with outlying towns got the Family Center, though Baytown is a fairly close-in suburb by Houston standards.


I have noticed this as well. I can't find one in either DFW or Houston. At the time of the construction, Baytown and Houston wouldn't have been as close.

Many existing markets in which a traditional Kroger was replaced by a Family Center were marginal markets for the company-LaFayette and New Iberia, LA for instance.


I don't know that Lafayette and New Iberia were marginal. They were on a Kroger peripheral area. The Lafayette store was in a bad spot, being right off downtown. It had been replaced by a greenhouse store near a more populated area. There were two Krogers in Lafayette; a Superstore and a Family Center. Longview had the same configuration. In both cases, the superstore actually closed first. Lafayette's greenhouse store was sold to National and operated as a Canal Villere, but when they pulled out, was sold to Delchamps, who operated it until a Super 1 Foods opened across the street. It has been abandoned since 1997.

Kroger has long been known for pulling out of peripheral areas. Baton Rouge is another example of this. There were two greenhouse Krogers there. One closed at the pullout, but the other was a Sav-A-Center (A&P) until about a year ago, when it was closed. Other than the sign on the door and the decor package inside, it was EXACTLY like a greenhouse Kroger.
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Re: Kroger Family Centers

Postby krogerclerk » 02 Feb 2008 10:19

By marginal, I mean Kroger would not have been the leading supermarket chain(#1 or #2 by corporate standards) and either unprofitible or very low profitit. National and A&P New Orleans divisions their divisions in surrounding markets and many independents that better catered to Louisianans have been major competitors in the individual markets. National operated several The Real Superstore formats in Louisiana including LaFayette, a format adopted from parent Loblaw's The Real Canadian Superstore.
Winn-Dixie was stronger in New Orleans which never had Kroger as well as Baton Rouge, and the former Fort Worth Winn-Dixie operation had a stronger North Texas presence outside of the DFW metroplex than Kroger ever had, a relic of the Kimball acquisition. Brookshire and Brookshire Bros. emerged as the stronger regional chains in East Texas and Central Louisiana during this period as well. An expansion to San Antonio and the Rio Grande Valley was also a failure for Kroger during this time frame, as HEB was the dominant competitor and Albertson's was also expanding into the region as well and would have the same fate as Kroger.

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Re: Kroger Family Centers

Postby wnetmacman » 02 Feb 2008 11:22

Brookshire and Brookshire Bros. emerged as the stronger regional chains in East Texas and Central Louisiana during this period as well.Winn-Dixie was stronger in New Orleans which never had Kroger as well as Baton Rouge, and the former Fort Worth Winn-Dixie operation had a stronger North Texas presence outside of the DFW metroplex than Kroger ever had, a relic of the Kimball acquisition.


New Orleans still has a heavy WD presence. In the Texas division, they were never #1 anywhere. Brookshire and Brookshire Brothers always had the more profitable stores outside DFW.

Brookshire and Brookshire Bros. emerged as the stronger regional chains in East Texas and Central Louisiana during this period as well.


East Texas, yes. Central Louisiana, no. Neither Brookshire nor Brookshire Brothes have had much success south of Natchitoches with their banner stores. Brookshire Brothers only has stores along the western border (Many, DeRidder, DeQuincy and Sulphur). Brookshire's southernmost stores are in Natchitoches. Stores further south have failed, with the exception of the Super 1 Foods stores. The original Super 1 was Alexandria, which still operates in the original location. Winn Dixie didn't do well in the areas where Brookshire did.

An expansion to San Antonio and the Rio Grande Valley was also a failure for Kroger during this time frame, as HEB was the dominant competitor and Albertson's was also expanding into the region as well and would have the same fate as Kroger.


Albertsons would suffer a similar fate in New Orleans, and now, A&P as well. The 7 New Orleans area Albertsons stores would, essentially, have the same sales as one DFW store. A&P had become too far separated from the parent divisions. I really think Kroger felt that they couldn't compete with the local stores like Schwegmann and National in New Orleans, neither of which survive today. Winn Dixie has what would be considered a marginal presence today, compared to the past. Many of their stores did not reopen after Katrina, including a large Marketplace store just north of the French Quarter.

Kroger never really operated outside of the major cities of Louisiana:
Shreveport/Bossier City (5 stores: currently one greenhouse, two acquisitions and two new signature stores)
Alexandria (one store, an acquisition, recently rebuilt as a signature store)
Lake Charles/Sulphur (four stores, including a family center, a greenhouse, a former Albertsons store and a mid-80's store)

Baton Rouge (several stores, closed/sold by late 80's)
Lafayette (2 stores, closed mid to late 80's)
Opelousas (one greenhouse, closed)
Natchitoches (one older store, closed in 70's)
New Iberia and Morgan City (both family centers)

Further south and east would have competed with the locals and Schwegmann/National. No operator was able to beat these two. They ultimately combined, and imploded. Even Delchamps didn't do well in New Orleans proper.
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Re: Kroger Family Centers

Postby wnetmacman » 04 Feb 2008 05:57

I got a few pictures of the New Iberia store today. Here goes:

Image

This is a wide shot of the front of the store. Note the two entrances. In the original Family Center, the checkouts would have been between these entrances. Now, the left entrance goes into a bowling alley, while the right entrance goes to the grocery store, now Simoneaud's.

Image

This is a closeup of the sign area. You can see the labelscar from something previous. The Kroger would have been a modular sign with KROGER spelled out across it, then Family Center to the right of it.

Image

An angle shot of the front, you can see how wide this store was.

Incidentally, while I was in New Iberia, I stopped at Simoneaud's other store, which is a Centennial A&P. I wish I had taken the camera in, because it had to be a former (albeit not original) A&P package. This store was expanded into an adjoining store, but most of the wall was not removed. The addition has a deli in the back. But that's for another post. I may call the owner of these stores and ask about pictures inside.
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Re: Kroger Family Centers

Postby submariner » 04 Feb 2008 10:49

wnetmacman wrote:I got a few pictures of the New Iberia store today. Here goes:


This is a wide shot of the front of the store. Note the two entrances. In the original Family Center, the checkouts would have been between these entrances. Now, the left entrance goes into a bowling alley, while the right entrance goes to the grocery store, now Simoneaud's.


This is a closeup of the sign area. You can see the labelscar from something previous. The Kroger would have been a modular sign with KROGER spelled out across it, then Family Center to the right of it.


An angle shot of the front, you can see how wide this store was.

Incidentally, while I was in New Iberia, I stopped at Simoneaud's other store, which is a Centennial A&P. I wish I had taken the camera in, because it had to be a former (albeit not original) A&P package. This store was expanded into an adjoining store, but most of the wall was not removed. The addition has a deli in the back. But that's for another post. I may call the owner of these stores and ask about pictures inside.


Interesting, the rock faces remind me a lot of the 'Superstore" look of many Kroger Stores from the 70's, though the Awnings are certainly different... It's a shame we can't find an example of this store's interior anymore.
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Re: Kroger Family Centers

Postby wnetmacman » 04 Feb 2008 11:23

Lake Charles' layout is original. The only problem is that the decor package is gone. I think Orange is close, but I've never been inside that store. This New Iberia store has the grocery side layout, but the GM side was gutted for the bowling alley.
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Re: Kroger Family Centers

Postby krogerclerk » 04 Feb 2008 12:06

It seems the original decor was closer to the colors used in later greenhouse stores, orange,brown, yellow as primary colors but not the Bauhaus font of the greenhouse stores. The old orange KMart decor of the 70's seems close, but the Kroger version ended up looking more like the decor belonged to a drugstore rather than a grocery/general merchandise hybrid. Many of these stores were in the 55000 to 65000 sq. ft. range, smaller than a discount store, but considerably larger than the typical grocery of the era and much larger than the 25000-35000 footprint of the superstore design. An intact interior package would be more likely in a functioning non-Kroger use of the building than a Kroger, as the chain would have given a greenhouse makeover to the majority of the locations during the 80's and remodeled any remaining locations to the then current mauve grid decor of the early-90's, plus subsequent remodels in the intervening time frame. The basic layout would be retained on all but the most drastic makeovers.
The best example of the layout in a current operating Kroger within a reasonable driving time would be the Fort Jackson Blvd Kroger Sav-on in Columbia, it a former A&P Family Mart with the lablescar visible and having a rock exterior vaguely resembling the New Iberia location. Photographs are on this site, and it has the 90's era grid interior.

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Re: Kroger Family Centers

Postby Groceteria » 04 Feb 2008 12:14

wnetmacman wrote:I got a few pictures of the New Iberia store today. Here goes:


Those are beautiful. Thanks!


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