Kroger #259 - Disco Kroger
Peachtree-Piedmont Crossing Shopping Center
Atlanta, GA 30305
Disco Kroger's Last Dance: Part II of the Disco Kroger Series
Welcome back to The Mid-South Retail Blog! In case we haven't met, I'm the Sing Oil Blogger, and I typically cover the history of my namesake Sing Oil Company, in addition to supermarkets across the Southeast on my blog, My Florida Retail Blog, and occasionally The Albertsons Florida Blog. You probably know that our typical host, Retail Retell, has been quite busy over the past few months and hasn't had a chance to write new content as frequently as he used to. I offered to step in and go into more detail on a store he kind of stole my thunder on a few months back. I will say I was a bit salty when I saw him post about this store before I did! Regardless, at least he acknowledged that I already had something in the works; furthermore, I have a feeling you may learn a few more things from my adventures even if you've already read about his . . .
As I alluded to before, I've been working on this post for nearly the past two years: ever since it was announced
in July 2021 that the Kroger store at the corner of Peachtree and
Piedmont Roads in Atlanta would have its second and final encounter with
a wrecking ball. Since then, I visited the store twice while it
remained open (with both visits happening exactly a year apart) and again
during its liquidation auction. This post will focus on the time Kroger #259 remained in business, but you can read more about my auction experience on today's companion post.
I also realized while I was writing that my portion of the series includes a few "hot takes" that somehow found their way onto the paper (or screen). These in no way represent the overall opinions of the blog and are solely my own – that's also an advantage I have to being completely independent!
Today's post will take us to the affluent North Atlanta suburb of Buckhead. Situated just blocks away from The Georgia Governor's Mansion, The St. Regis Atlanta, Phipps Plaza, and Lenox Square Mall, the store colloquially known as "Disco Kroger" was seemingly located in the heart of it all.
|The Atlanta Constitution (Newspapers.com) - August 14, 1975|
It will also be open 24 hours a day, strengthening the move toward around-the-clock shopping introduced here last winter by A&P, which now has 10 stores operated on this basis." - The Atlanta Constitution
At this time, Kroger's competition in Atlanta included the likes of A&P, Colonial Stores (Colonial & Big Star), Alterman Foods (Big Apple, K-Mart Foods, & Food Giant), and Winn-Dixie – none of which remain in the area to this day. It's pretty impressive that Kroger managed to last in this location for over 47-years (and outlive all of those other players); however, its longevity doesn't quite beat the tiny Publix located a few miles away inside a 63-year-old A&P.
|The Atlanta Constitution (Newspapers.com) - November 20, 1986|
During those 47-years, Disco Kroger remained a flagship store for the chain, especially considering it was allegedly the first supermarket in the Southeast to feature a sushi bar – all the way back in 1986! This was only the second Kroger in the country to feature sushi, with the other being in Kroger's hometown of Cincinnati. Can you just imagine a Bauhaus-themed sushi bar?!
For two short years, Buckhead residents could indulge in a $2.50 California roll or a $3 tuna roll all while shopping for their weekly groceries, dropping off their dry cleaning, or depositing money into their BankSouth checking accounts – until they couldn't. Kroger ended up closing the sushi bar in 1988 citing the difficulty of finding and keeping trained sushi chefs.
|Courtesy Guy D'Alema (Arts ATL) - The Limelight|
In addition to fancy peanut butter and sushi, this supermarket also boasted another feature: a disco club next door. The Limelight, seen above, opened its doors in 1980 in a former dinner theater. The nightclub is said to have included a glass dance floor with two sharks swimming underneath and a plethora of neon lights illuminating the space.
Anybody who has seen a lively nightclub knows what happens after midnight: many impaired people slowly trickle out in search of their next refuge. What better place to "sober up" than the 24-hour supermarket next door!
There is additional folklore that the store hosted late-night frozen turkey bowling and cereal aisle dance-offs, and while this does seem likely, I have not been able to corroborate it.
The Limelight eventually closed on September 26, 1987 citing "dwindling attendance" but was followed by Rupert's Nightclub (1988-1996) and Atlanta Live (1996-1998) before the adjacent storefront next door was leased to Cost-Plus World Market. More pictures of the inside of the Limelight (and the World Market store) can be found here.
|The Atlanta Constitution (Newspapers.com) - September 20, 1988|
Something that I love about these posts is all of the tangents I go down while performing background research. Our next example of that is this article about Kroger's failed hostile takeover attempt by Dart Group in 1988. The deal followed a $3.77 billion defensive restructuring effort by the Cincinnati-based chain to ward off any potential buyers.
The article above, which goes into detail about the takeover attempt, also shows us a rare glimpse of this store's original Superstore façade. Some more pictures of a former Michigan Superstore (that still had the 1980's Bauhaus décor until at least 2008) can be found here.
|The Atlanta Constitution (Newspapers.com) - September 21, 1988|
The following day, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co (KKR) announced it would top Dart Group's offer in attempt to perform a leveraged buyout, which would have brought Kroger under the same corporate umbrella as Safeway had the deal gone through. (You may also remember KKR from my post a few weeks ago covering a former Bruno's / Food World store.) That would've saved Albertsons and Kroger a lot of time and effort today!
The 1980's are known for a plethora of attempted and successful leveraged buyouts, but I never realized that Kroger was entangled in this hectic web either.
|The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Newspapers.com) - Disco Kroger's first encounter with a wrecking ball - February 22, 2001|
Based on what I've read, I'd imagine that this store received its first remodel in 1986 (when it received the sushi bar), followed by another possible remodel in the 1990's. Sushi would once again return to this store in 2001 following a six-month overhaul that included a grand new façade out front (which even a disco ball couldn't crack). I wouldn't be surprised if this is when Kroger expanded the retail outlet into some of the adjacent storefronts, like the former SuperX.
|The Atlanta Constitution (Newspapers.com) - October 18, 2008|
The store once again underwent an extensive remodel in 2008, which upgraded the location to Kroger's upmarket "Fresh Fare" banner. The $5.5 million remodel made this the fifth Fresh Fare store in the country and the first in Georgia. The new banner focused on "organic and freshly prepared foods" with "about 10,000 square feet, or nearly one-fifth of the store, dedicated to sushi chefs, chef-made entrees, imported cheeses, olives, and fresh breads." The supermarket also offered more than 4,400 wines, including a $1,184.99 magnum of Chateau D'Yquem, 1995 vintage Saunternes – I wonder how long that sat on the shelf!
The article above goes on to point out, "Still, it may seem like a precarious time to launch an upscale grocery store, given the recent gyrations on Wall Street and dramatic dips in retail sales . . . But Kroger officials say they aren't worried. 'We have no reservations launching an upscale store in the Buckhead community,' said Glynn Jenkins, director of communications for Kroger's Atlanta division. 'We will still offer items that provide value. We have the Kroger Plus Card savings and Kroger brand products as well.'" - The Atlanta Constitution
It seems as if Kroger couldn't have picked a worse time to roll out an upscale grocery concept, as during the prior month, the Federal Reserve took over AIG, the Federal Government announced the takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy (which remains the largest bankruptcy filing in US history and triggered a 4.5% one-day drop of the Dow Jones Industrial Average). Needless to say, the economy was backfiring on all cylinders.
It doesn't take much to see that the Fresh Fare concept was designed during the height of the real estate boom, and likewise features all of the gold and gild of pre-Recession America. All of that seems to be a stark contrast to the soured environs it was ultimately introduced to, but it must not have fared too poorly in order to have survived for 14-years here. Just keep that context in mind as we embark on our "stour".
As we learned above, Kroger has gladly embraced the "Disco" badge for this store over the years.
|Allons-y à la discothèque|
That's especially apparent thanks to a large mural painted on the side of the shopping center. Tucked away facing a small parking lot, this funky facsimile reminds us of the feverish fervor of past patrons. The dance floor may be gone, but the memories remain!
|Quelle est cette tête de cerf dont tu parles?|
As I mentioned before, this store is located on prime real estate in the heart of Buckhead. Probably the most striking thing about the location is how there can be a full-sized shopping center with a surface parking lot in the midst of these skyscrapers! It will be interesting to see what changes here once Publix moves in; however, I believe the part of the shopping center we see here will remain.
|«Farm I see» – Où sont les vachettes et les poulets?|
Turning to the right, we see this store's secondary pharmacy entrance. I feel like this door should have more aptly been labeled as "exit" because it led directly to the checkout lines.
I would like to point out the Art Deco-inspired accents on the awning above the door. These appear to have been added during the 2001 façade remodel, but I initially couldn't figure out why – until I realized that the Atlanta Division's Olympic Spirit décor is what this store remodeled to following the turn of the Millennium. Duh! That would also explain the checkered floor tiles we can see in this newspaper picture which match the ones seen in several of these pictures.
|Bienvenue à Disco Kroger|
From Disco to Deco, and every Fare in between, this store has been Stayin' Alive for generations of Atlanta residents. Even if all of that shakin' led to the city (or some bones) breakin', longtime shoppers are welcome to continue rollin' on the sales floor thanks to the motorized carts we see here.
Unlike some of Atlanta's other nicknamed Krogers, like Murder Kroger, the Cincinnati-based grocer was proud to embrace this location's colloquial moniker. It looks like an employee even decided to make a chalk pen graphic to boot! (This image managed to survive until the auction as well.)
|«J'adore Stevie Nicks»|
As if the drawing wasn't enough, now, here we go again, we see the crystal visions of bygone revelers in the reflective sphere above.
|«Des prix plus bas que bas pour des aliments qui sont plus frais que frais»|
Once inside, we are greeted by a variety of specialty departments with arguably no clear guidance on where to go. I'm a huge fan of implied design cues in stores, but I often personally feel overwhelmed by all of the "stuff" calling for my attention inside a Kroger. On top of the plethora of yellow and red graphics, this store had no less than six different directions shoppers could turn at this crossroads. Here's a quick rundown using "clock" directions:
- at 9 o'clock, I could have ventured into the floral department and then funneled to the front of the checkouts
- at 11 o'clock, I could have walked down a corridor leading to the grocery aisles of the store
- at 12 o'clock, I could have meandered through the wine department
- at 1 o'clock, I could have zig-zagged through an alcove of pre-packaged deli foods
- at 2 o'clock, I could have browsed through the dump bins of items on special
- at 3 o'clock, I could have walked into a wall of Gatorade blocking the old "Bistro" ready-to-eat counter
- at 4 o'clock, I could have walked toward the in-store seating area
- and at 6 o'clock, I could have given up from my indecisiveness, walked right back out the door, gotten in my car, driven home, crawled into bed, and cried myself to sleep due to my agony
Am I unjustified for being a little overwhelmed? Anyhow, my Magic 8 Ball told me to pick option "D", so deli foods it is!
Kroger Greenhouse stores may often show their age, but at least they provide a clear direction of where shoppers should go (the produce department) when entering those stores.
|Le Bistro est fermé|
On a positive note, I noticed how this location survived up until the end without having to expose its concrete subfloor (Anonymous in Houston can rejoice). I do appreciate that the circa 2008 flooring uses a subtle checkered pattern since it is more interesting than solid white yet more inviting than brown concrete.
|Ce n'est qu'une question de temps|
Furthermore, I'd assume that both the 2001 and 2008 remodels radically altered the layout of this store since I don't see any obvious remnants from any original configurations. That being said, I'd guess that we would be standing in the SuperX drug store portion of the shopping center had this been taken in 1975.
I'm not sure whether it was because my initial visit was earlier in the afternoon or because the store was already decidedly destined for demolition by my second visit, but The Bistro hot food counter only appeared to be open during my 2021 visit. I at least remember the sliced meats portion of the deli was open and staffed on my second visit because that is a rare sight of its own in my recent Kroger experiences.
Interestingly, I've also seen this same Bistro signage used in a Bountiful store, so it must not have been exclusive to Fresh Fare.
|«Catch a Bud»|
We now find ourselves in the midst of the zig-zag I mentioned earlier, with the "L"-shaped deli cooler off to my left and the specialty cheese island in front of me. The bakery and produce department can be seen off in the distance.
Retail Retell has mentioned this in the past, but this store's Fresh Fare décor lacks formal department signage and instead utilizes pictographs to designate each area of the store. As we can see here, the bakery counter is identified by a muffin. Having navigated several grocery stores which lack any English signage, it's surprisingly easy to pick up on context clues to find what I am looking for. I applaud Kroger for trying something different with this package, as it highlights how text isn't really necessary for navigation (even if a
clock compass is).
Several of the department "signs" were also framed by a pair of the "Fresh Fare" awnings like we see above.
Spinning around, we see the part of the sales floor between the specialty cheese island and the bakery which was designated for pre-packaged baked goods. If you haven't tried them, Kroger has some very tasty sugar cookies.
If this shot is any indication, I feel like Kroger is hell-bent on getting shoppers to purchase something from the bakery. This picture highlights one portion of the maze between the entrance and the produce department – there really is no clear path!
I wish I had taken a better photo or two of the fresh departments' secondary signage because they feature an interesting copper-metallic background and ghosted Fresh Fare logo in addition to the department category.
At least this shot does give us a decent overview of the front end of the store, with the deli sliced meats counter located just off to my left.
Inching further toward the back, we see this store's dedicated "Live Naturally" organic department just beyond the "L"-shaped deli cooler. Interestingly, there was corresponding signage hanging from the ceiling on all four sides even though the space was only accessible from two. It's worth noting that Kroger, like most other grocery chains, has been phasing out this specialty department in favor of placing the items throughout the store.
The back right corner of the store was home to the produce department, which received some added wood accents to differentiate it from the rest of the store. Do you think that sale poster for the red seedless grapes is large enough? It is at least 4-feet wide!
The department also had a number of hanging "props" to provide a change from the mundane white ceiling tiles. These accents almost make me think of something one would hang pots on in his or her kitchen. I do appreciate how "warm" this corner of the store looked too.
I'm your private shopper, a shopper for money
I'll buy what you want me to buy
I'm your private shopper, a shopper for money
And any old melon will do . . .
I guess I was trying to obscure my camera behind that watermelon bin in order to not get caught by the man looking at oranges! Regardless, it provided the perfect tie in for my musical reference. If you're totally lost, I'll explain with a reprise in Part III . . .
|C'est quoi ce piment kiwi dont tu parles?|
Turning back toward the front, we'll take another quick glance over what we've covered so far . . .
|Suivre la lumière|
. . . before shucking our attention away to look toward the back actionway. I do like how Kroger decided to use different flooring in this department to serve as a subtle differentiator.
|Se sentir mieux, manger mieux, vivre naturellement|
Now, time for a bit more salt; Retail Retell has pointed out these pendant light fixtures before and how they can add to the upscale feel of the Fresh Fare package; however, I think they just make the space look dated in 2023 (on top of the fact that the bulbs in the majority of the fixtures were burned out).
To me, Fresh Fare and its sister package Flagship Script scream of the opulence and excessive nature of pre-Recession design. With this store undergoing its last remodel in 2008, I have a strong feeling that the package was developed with the mentality that "the bubble would never pop" – except that it did. The Recession seemed to usher in a new era of minimalism and contemporary design which was a stark departure from all of the warm colors, brass finishes, textured wallpapers, and "sketched" graphics of the previous years.
Continuing on to the wine department, we can see that this store has a rather expansive selection compared to your average supermarket; I do like the faux-wood flooring used here!
|Qu'est-ce que c'est? Le vin en boîte – comme c'est scandaleux!|
I can tell this shot was from my 2021 visit because I see several of the original Art Nouveau-inspired category markers which were absent from my previous picture. By that point, this store's fate had already been sealed so I wonder why Kroger bothered to swap out the old signage.
This department also reminds me of the "Tuscan" look that was very popular before the Great Recession took hold.
|La Cave du Vin|
The highlight of this store's wine department was certainly the climate controlled cellar (making this only the second time I've seen such in a supermarket). I'd presume this is where the "$1,184.99 magnum of Chateau D'Yquem, 1995 vintage Sauternes. Kept at the requisite 58 degrees," was stored when the location reopened as a Fresh Fare in 2008 – now I wish I had ventured inside the cellar to see what kind of high-priced wines this store offered in 2022! I wonder if the 50% off store closing discount applied here too?!
|Merci d'avoir fait vos achats chez Fresh Fare|
Now that we've finished our tour through the vineyard, we'll pop our heads out for a quick look at the florist. I've always been intrigued by the fact that Kroger minimized its own branding in Fresh Fare, similar to Publix with the now-retired GreenWise concept. I also like how the designers added some local flare with the black and white photos below the text.
Next up, we'll meander through a few grocery aisles, beginning with aisle two. Other than the enlarged service and wine departments, this store seemed to be stocked much like any other Kroger I've been to.
This photo also shows us a rare sight in an Atlanta Division Kroger: an employee working in a service department. I am personally shocked by the number of times I've walked past a deli, bakery, meat, or seafood counter in a Kroger, regardless of the time of day, only to find neither active employees nor active lights, with this store being one of the few exceptions. That's not to say that this store had ample numbers of staff running around, but I was at least able to find one person working at both the deli and seafood counters.
I do like all of the spotlights and "awning" accent panels used in this department, as I feel like they do dress up the space. It's also worth noting how the seafood display uses the frameless glass panels which are typically reserved for premium stores in Publix world.
Since I haven't mentioned this yet, all of the department "signs" are bolted to two metal posts secured to the inside of a light box below. I personally feel like uplighting is an underutilized feature in store design, and I like how it sets off the panels by highlighting the wall behind them. (Check out my afterlife post on more details about the signs themselves.)
Over on aisle five, we see a selection of chips and crackers. I primarily notice the "Scan-Rite Promise" pennant off in the distance which looks just like one we saw back at Art De-Kroger. I'd also like to point out how the category sign for "tortilla chips" got into a tussle with something at some point. At least it was luckier than its neighbor closer to us.
|L'Espace des Services|
Back up front, we can see the checkout lines and a rare sight inside a supermarket: natural light. I know the current façade was added during the 2001 remodel, but I wonder if this store ever had a Greenhouse following its Superstore days.
Since Fresh Fare and Flagship Script are sister packages, they did share several sign designs, such as the ones seen above the checkout lines here.
|Tape m'en cinq, des pâtes|
We'll next look at frozen foods on aisle seven, which curiously features different models of freezers on either side.
Another curiosity is the fact that these floor tiles lack the diamond accents which are present around the perimeter of the store.
|Un carré d'agneau|
This store featured an additional meat alcove between the service counter and the dairy section which boasted the rack of lamb pictograph we see above. Curiously enough, it doesn't even look like lamb was sold under the sign because all I see is clearance ham and frozen shrimp.
Turning a bit to the left, we can see the dairy department come into view along with another reminder that we are inside a "fresh fare by Kroger" store.
Another odd thing about this store is the fact that it used surface-mount florescent light fixtures rather than ones set into the dropped ceiling grid; I wonder why this is? I did notice during the auction that there was an additional, unused grid hiding above the one we see here, so maybe that didn't allow for enough clearance for traditional fixtures? That being said, I still wonder why Kroger didn't remove the old grid during one of the multi-million dollar remodels.
I'm also surprised that this store maintained its Kmart-style air diffusers through all of those remodels.
Hopping back into the grocery aisles, we'll take a quick glance down aisle 10 to see paper goods and a small section of housewares.
Aisle 11 hosts a combination of cleaning supplies and pet foods . . .
. . . while aisle 12 offers all sorts of baby products. I'm no Kroger expert, but I found it odd that this store received a Bountiful baby department sign (which is just barely visible in this photo). These signs also happen to interpret "baby" as "babee" considering they feature a child in bee form.
Jumping over to 13, we see a variety of personal care products along with this section's special branding. I've never quite understand why Kroger opted to use a different style of aisle sign for the health and beauty section because I feel like it abruptly breaks up an otherwise cohesive package.
We'll pop back out to the back actionway of the store for one last overview . . .
. . . before I mention that there happens to be a shoe hidden here from view. More on that in the next post.
|Déballer un sourire|
We'll continue on the other foot as we put ourselves in the middle of the dairy aisle which runs along the left wall of the store. I like how Kroger used more of the Fresh Fare awnings here to accent the orange juice pictograph: they really help to break up the empty wall space.
"Hello, may I ask who is calling?"
"Oh, hey 2006! How have you been?"
"You said you want your interior design back? Well, let me transfer you to the pharmacy."
Back up front, this store also had several short pharmaceutical aisles by the pharmacy which featured the green version of the H&BA signage. I think the colors in this section blend in much better than the blue, even though they look fairly dated at this point.
The pharmacy butted up to the front left corner of the store, and happened to feature one of the most interesting pieces of local flare . . .
. . . a roughly 18-foot wide collage! It looks like Kroger decided to make one of these for each Fresh Fare store, which I can appreciate considering how most stores don't spend the time to develop a one-off piece like this. Retail Retell shows off some of the variations of this collage used in different stores here.
It wasn't long after I took this shot, when a random lady walked up to me and asked if I could buy her a gift card. I typically don't like when people confront me inside stores, but this experience was much less like Stone Dae Muntain and much more like money request encounters I've had amidst the aisles of a Walmart or Harveys.
The lady went on to say that she would pay me back, but she wasn't able to purchase the gift card herself for some reason. I respectfully declined the offer, wondering what kind of con she was either playing or being played in and how I wanted no part of it. That encounter, in a flagship Kroger of all places, only adds to my admitted bias against the chain; out
of the 99 Publixes I've photographed (much less the additional stores I've been to) I've never had anything close to that happen. She's also far from the first "character" I've come across in a Kroger store, to put it nicely.
Anyway, this shot gives us another nice view of the natural light that is let in through the front windows of this store. I wish more retailers would have big windows like this!
|La vérité simple|
The simple truth is this store's days were numbered by the time I got around to capturing my first photo set.
|Les feux de la rampe|
That feeling was only accentuated by the dirty-looking off-white present throughout the store and the faded photo of years gone by hanging above the registers. Much like The Limelight, this store will soon, if it hasn't already, meet a similar fate as it is demolished for a fancy new grocery store. Buckhead residents must be hungry for change!
|La Caisse Libre-Service|
I was in for some change of my own after I made my purchase at the self-checkout line because next time, I would see this store was under entirely different circumstances. Kroger ended up permanently closing this store on December 9, 2022, in order to make way for the aforementioned Publix which will presumably be a 54M. It will be interesting to see how the aging nearby Publix stores, such as #282 at The Peach, will fare following this store's grand opening.
Regardless, make sure to check out Part 2 of this post to see this store during its final days in existence: The Afterlife.
Profiter du présent,
- The Sing Oil Blogger