Walnut Hills community initiative extends Kroger lease

WALNUT HILLS, OH ( FOX19) - One neighborhood grocery store on the brink of closing it's doors has been given another chance.

Kroger announced Thursday it will extend the lease for three years at the Walnut Hills branch.

The current lease expires at the start of 2014. Despite the fact that the branch hasn't been profitable for the past twenty years, there's a change in culture around the Walnut Hills community that is bringing new life to the store.

Laura Clayborn says she shops at the Walnut Hills Kroger about three or four times a week and doesn't like the thought of going somewhere else for groceries.

"Some people don't have transportation, and then the bus you'd have to lug all your groceries on the bus to get to another store, so we need this store," said Clayborn.

Kroger officials say the branch lost more than $500,000 in 2012 citing a drop in the local population and shift in shopping patterns. Kathy Atkinson has been a resident of Walnut Hills for years and has seen a bit of a decline since she first moved here.

"There was a pharmacy. There was a flower shop. There was a salad bar. Little by little each one of those things disappeared in our neighborhood store and as those things disappeared, also the sense that maybe we wouldn't keep the store at all," said Atkinson.

Recently, Atkinson played a key role with the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation in bringing more foot traffic to the store through the Kroger Buy 25 initiative that encourages new residents to spend $50 a month at the grocery store.

"Buy 25 was come in twice a month. Spend $25. Be part of the change," Atkinson explained.

In the past five years, the branch has also renovated the inside of the store, added new products and taken product requests from shoppers. Clayborn and Atkinson say they appreciate the effort to keep the customer first.

"The old folks home is right there. They need to walk to the store and get groceries. We need this Kroger, and I hope they keep it open," said Clayborn.

"I've been here for 20 years, and Kroger has been here for 20 years, and I'm going to trust that we're going to be here for at least 20 more," Atkinson told FOX19.

Kroger says they hope the continued revitalization around the Walnut Hills community will make the grocery store more profitable than it has in years past.

Kroger officials say they'll continue to closely evaluate the store over the course of the extended lease.

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