EATON — After years of residents virtually begging for a new Kroger store, the first step in making it a reality took place Monday, Aug. 28, when a ceremonial ground breaking ceremony was held to kick off the announcement of an upcoming project which will transform the former Kmart property into a much-desired expanded Kroger.
The former retail shopping property in Eaton, will soon see new life thanks to a collaboration between the Cincinnati/Dayton division of Kroger and Reid Health, officials announced Monday.
Officials and staff members from both organizations were joined by community leaders from around the City of Eaton and Preble County were on hand Monday morning to announce the project, which will include construction of a new Kroger store at the former Kmart property, 1705 N. Barron St.
Eaton Mayor Joe Renner kicked off the morning’s special speakers.
“Finally, we have an answer to two of the most-asked questions in Eaton. And they are: ‘what’s happening with the old Kmart building?’ And ‘when are we getting a new Kroger?’ Let me assure you if you don’t live here, those are very hot topics in the city and even in Preble County,” Renner said.
“Over the past 20 years, Eaton’s grocery options have dwindled as other stores have closed, leaving Kroger, with its roots in Cincinnati, as the only one I now consider a ‘hometown’ store.
“Eaton’s history with Kroger goes back decades. At a regular meeting on Monday, Aug. 16, 1948, Eaton Village Council okayed the proposed construction of a new Kroger Market to be erected on east Main St. downtown. The Kroger Company later opened a new store in the Eaton Centre in August 1991.
“And now, here we are in August 2023, announcing this joint project between Kroger & Reid Health which will bring a much-needed larger, new, and improved Kroger to not only Eaton, but all of Preble County,” Renner continued.
“It is with great pleasure that I, on behalf of Eaton City Council as well as the residents of Eaton and Preble County, say thank you to the Kroger Company, and to Reid Health, for their new and continued investments in, and support of, our community. I would especially like to thank all those at both the Kroger Company and Reid as well as the administrative staff at the City of Eaton who have worked so hard to make this project a reality. We know there were a lot of bumps along the way COVID included, and somehow we’ve gotten here so the positive impact of this new store will be felt by this community for years to come,” he added.
The new Kroger will be approximately 72,000 square feet in size and feature additional fresh products in all departments, Kroger PickUp, Pharmacy with drive-thru, and a Fuel Center a press release noted. Kroger will employ more than 100 additional associates, increase wages, and offer additional leadership opportunities for career advancement, according to officials.
“We have proudly served the community of Eaton since 1991 and are excited to increase job opportunities and expand access to fresh and affordable food for residents,” Ann Reed, President of the Cincinnati/Dayton division said in the release. “Most importantly, our collaboration with Reid Health will increase access to critical healthcare services for residents as we lead with our mission to provide a world of care and build healthier lives.”
“What a great day for the city of Eaton and our store here. The number of our store here is 828. So we felt like it was really fitting to collaborate on an announcement on 8-28,” Reed said at the event. At Kroger we understand the pivotal role we play in the city of Eaton and the county and in the community. We are excited with the job opportunities and the expanded access to fresh healthy food for our residents.”
She continued, “And I’m really excited to announce it’s going to be about a 72,000 square foot facility with a lot of the latest and greatest offerings — think about fuel center, pharmacy, pickup, you know, maybe even a Starbucks. So, you know we’re really excited about all the extras, as well as expanded fresh food offerings, expanded frozen dairy and grocery items. It’s been a dream for many years in this community and for many years with Kroger, and I’ll just tell you, it’s certainly an honor to be here to celebrate with everybody here today.”
Reid Health acquired the former Kmart site in 2019 with an eye toward the possibilities it presented, not only for potential growth of healthcare services in the community but also as a springboard for economic development.
“We’re excited to work with Kroger on this project,” said Reid Health President/CEO Craig Kinyon. “Our mission to lead our communities to well-being, one person at a time goes beyond healthcare services. This new store will expand Kroger’s offerings here and enhance the quality of life for those who call Eaton and Preble County home.”
“Now that life has returned to a level of normalcy, we’re thrilled to be here with our friends from Kroger and announced a wonderful project that will benefit the people with eating and Preble County,” Kinyon said at Monday’s celebration.
Duane Hatfield, Vice President of Human Resources at Kroger echoed the sentiments of Mayor Renner and Kinyon, and stressed the economic development and career opportunity side of the project. “You know, at Kroger we love to say that you can come for a job or discover a career,” he told those in attendance. “While it’s true today, it becomes even more true as we embark on this new journey together. I’m really proud of this group and everything that you’re going to do to bring the new store to life. And all the new folks who are going to be a part of that journey along with us.”
“What an exciting day for Preble County,” State Rep. Rodney Creech said. “We’ve been waiting for this for a long time and as the mayor said, over the last several years, the number one question, comment, whatever — from the people is ‘when are we going to get a new Kroger?’ And you know, it’s been amazing to get this announcement out. You know, we have a lot of big things happening here. We’re very blessed. We’ve had a lot of big announcements, announcements that have brought in new businesses, retain businesses, that’s helped employees and that’s great for our community — but this announcement affects everyone in Preble County. Anyone that puts a fork in their mouth, this announcement is going to affect them. And I also believe it’s going to bring people into our county. That’s what we love to do, too. There’s gonna be people from north south, east and west that are traveling to our county.”
Tom Hilkert, governing board chair of the Reid Health Board stressed Reid’s guiding vision of healthier people, thriving communities and being a trusted partner. “Let me say that again: healthier people, thriving communities and being a trusted partner,” Hilkert told those in attendance. “We’re confident that this project will help us achieve all three of those goals here in the surrounding area.”
“A new Kroger store with expanded offerings is something the city’s residents have wanted for several years. The expanded service and grocery availability, as well as the new employment opportunities this project will bring, are welcome additions for the City of Eaton,” Eaton City Manager Brad Collins noted in the press release.
Details regarding the construction timeline will be announced on a future date, officials noted in the release.
“Kroger works closely with regional food banks to connect its neighbors with the food they need to thrive,” the release noted. “In 2022 alone, Kroger donated more than $98,000 in food and funds toward ending hunger. Through a combination of strategically directed funding and donations of surplus food from its stores, the retailer is taking important steps to support those working on the front lines of the fight against hunger.” Representatives from Shared Harvest and the Foobank were also on hand to celebrate the announcement.
The release continued, “Reid Health will continue to provide healthcare services in Preble County at its Reid Eaton Family & Specialty Care location at 550 Hallmark Drive. This is the home of primary care services from the team of Amy Goff, DO; Carrie Kerby, NP; and Kimberly Reffitt, NP. The facility also includes specialty care services such as Reid OB/GYN, Outpatient Behavioral Health, Pulmonary Care, and Rehabilitation Services.”
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 and follow on X @emowenjr.