Kroger should introduce a new-to-market concept store Downtown to revitalize Court Street.
Why do some people say that Downtown Cincinnati lacks a grocery store, seemingly ignoring the existence of Findlay Market and the OTR Vine Street Kroger?
While these shopping options deserve more respect, it is true that there are “gaps” in the shopping experiences offered that lead some urban residents to do their shopping at suburban grocery locations.
Findlay Market is a jewel in the Queen City’s crown. However, its very popularity & totally unique experience makes it a somewhat stressful place for weekly grocery shopping when it’s crowded. Some items, such as dry goods (paper towels & TP) aren’t available at any vendor (although that will soon change with the opening of the “Epicurean Mercantile Company.”) It also has limited hours, and may be somewhat inconvenient for CBD residents to access on foot (although that too will soon change with the opening of the streetcar.) Findlay Market will continue to do well in the future, because it offers an experience beyond the pure retail transaction.
Vine Street Kroger’s small size means it can’t offer the large deli, organic, produce and meat departments available in suburban Kroger Marketplace stores, let alone newer concepts like Kroger Bistro that offer lunch or meals-to-go. Although it is making strides in introducing new organic and specialty items, the lack of selection limits its appeal to upper middle class types moving back to the city. Vine Street Kroger is ultra-convenient to OTR residents on foot, but may be inconvenient to CBD residents who, if forced to get in their car for a shopping trip, find it just as easy to travel to the Kroger Marketplace store in the Newport Pavilion.
Vine Street Kroger does, however, provide a crucial access for OTR’s low income residents to Kroger value brands such as P$$t! and Heritage Farm. It also provides everyday neighborhood-focused retail on Vine St., which is otherwise dominated by upscale boutiques. This kind of diversity in business types adds vibrancy to the business district.
However, Kroger’s recent expansion has brought new brand names into their portfolio, and they also have new concepts under development. The “Main and Vine” concept in Gig Harbor, WA in particular looks like a shopping experience many people are asking for in a downtown grocery store:
“From the beginning the focus of Main & Vine has always been centered on the community and fresh, local and sustainable foods, as well as mainstream grocery items available at affordable prices,” said Dann Kohl, Main & Vine’s store manager, in a statement. “Residents now have a space to explore local brands and purveyors, get inspired for their next meal, learn something new at the Event Center or meet up with friends and family in our café area.”
Kroger could open this concept on Court Street near their headquarters in the CBD, developing the surface parking lot bounded by Central Parkway, Walnut, and Court Streets. Since this concept could complement more than compete with the Vine Street Kroger store, they could leave the Vine Street store open for the convenience of OTR residents.
Moreover, the opening of this store could be used to revitalize retail along Court Street. There are vacant storefronts in several of the historic buildings lining Court Street, and the area is eerily quiet at night. The metered parking in the Court Street median would be very convenient to customers of such a grocery store, and would drive all-hours foot traffic past these storefronts. Additionally, nearby northbound and southbound streetcar stops serve this location.
An empty storefront on Court Street
The grocery store could also form the ground floor retail for a larger residential mid-rise or tower development, which would increase the population of the area, capitalize on demand for downtown living, and provide more potential customers.