Sunday, August 4, 2013

A Brief History Of Kroger In The Ashland Park Area

Kroger has had a long and successful journey when it comes to their store locations in and around the Chevy Chase Shopping Center and surrounding neighborhoods.

It was January of 1925 when the grocery concern entered the Lexington market by leasing two locations. One was at Seventh and Maple while the other was Lime and Rose. By the end of 1930 they had opened a store at 112 N Hanover.

Don't go looking for the building now since it was removed some 20 years ago. It sat behind the Delta gas station and could be seen from Main St, .yet it was just 50 foot square and amid many single family homes.

Many of the leases that Kroger signed in those days were for a length of 5 years and the moves were often. By 1935, Kroger had taken over the former S. A, Glass store at 726 E Main and again situated themselves adjacent to the residential established there. 

See photo here

The long blank side walls faced either the gas station to the left or (eventually) the parking lot to the right, but the display windows looked right out on Main.

January of 1941 brought news that Kroger would open their 4th Lexington “super” market near the intersection of Euclid and High St. Again a 5 year lease was involved on a building that required the demolition of three residences. By mid April, the store opened to serve residents from Ashland Park, Chevy Chase and as far south as the Monclair subdivision. It is also about this time that walking to the store became near impossible for most folks. 

See photos here

In February of 1950, Kroger announced the consolidation of their E. Main and Euclid Ave stores into “one of two of the finest Kroger stores in the country” when they opened the new East High St location. It was right around the corner from the Euclid store and about twice the size. One of the best things to come out of this move was that it allowed Jean's Bakery to become established in the old Main St spot. Jean's, we now know and love as Magee's.

Once again the display windows faced the street and the long side walls stretched back along the parking lot some 165 feet. Residents walking from the Hollywood or Columbia Heights area would have to brave the “heat island” effect of summer or the “windswept tundra” effect of winter as the negotiated the active parking lot.

The mid '50s introduced new competition in Chevy Chase when the Colonial Albers store opened on Euclid Ave across from Clay Ave. Many of us will recognize this as the current location of he Kroger store, but most will not recall that two or three residences still stood at the corner with Lafayette Ave (now Marquis). Exxon would put a short lived gas station on that corner to compete with the Pilot station from Ashland Oil on the corner with Clay.

Edwin and Frank Lyle sold their market at 555 S. Upper St to the Kroger Co in May of 1959. With little remodeling, Kroger stayed there until the early '70s when they replaced the former Albers building with a new store. This was about the same time as the restrictions on Sunday sales were removed. This store has been expanded from its original size in order to keep up with customer preferences. The E High St location was re-purposed in 1978 into the current configuration.

See photo here

Throughout all of the re-locations, consolidations and expansions the face of the store has always been toward the street and there have always been relatively long blank walls backing to the adjacent property or a parking lot. The positioning of the front door toward a vast, barren parking lot is a recent phenomena which has its beginnings in areas lacking the advantages of walkable retail or other societal accoutrements found in the first ring subdivisions.

Whereas the older style stores built their reputations serving the residents of the immediate area, it now appears that they are attempting to maintain that reputation to a much farther flung population base. Granted, a highly mobile base but also one that now seems to look for ways to limit their unnecessary automobile use whenever possible.

Designing a new facility to address a trend which may be reversing course could be a bit shortsighted. These are not the days of the 5 year leases where Kroger began in Lexington. Kroger now owns much of the property where they build their free standing, specialty buildings and the locational agility that they once had may be lost to the past.

I do not agree with the zone change which Kroger is pursuing nor do I agree with some of the tactics being employed by the opponents in fighting it. I certainly feel that not enough innovative thought has gone into the design for adequately and correctly blending into this vitally important area.


dilettante said...

Is the building at 7th and Maple that is now the "Casa de Omar" corner store the same building that held one of those early Kroger's? If, so, the square footage is kind of an eye-opener:

Lexington Streetsweeper said...

Yes, Seventh and Maple was one of the original two Kroger locations in Lexington. Markets were quite small in those days. Most people went to specialty shops for meats and the dairies delivered.

Kate Savage said...

Have looked high and low for information about the "short-lived" Exxon gas station at the corner of Marquis (old Lafayette) and Euclid. Long term neighbourhood residents remember it but neither Sanborn fire maps or State records show anything. Can you help here with your resource? Thanks.