the state of the supermarkets

Say goodbye to SaveRite, folks; Winn-Dixie, SaveRite’s owner, is shutting down all its SaveRite stores in the Atlanta area. This includes, presumably, the one in Conyers where I get sent every time we’re over at my boyfriend’s parents’ house and his brother runs out of butter for cooking. I’m going to miss that SaveRite.

I get the impression that the Atlanta supermarkets are going through a period of confusion right now, anyway. From my experience — and please chime in if yours is different — Publix is more consistent in its look and feel; Kroger is more likely to run the gamut. Kroger can be fairly utilitarian and unhappy-looking (see: the one on Ponce, in the shopping center with Camelli’s Pizza and Chin Chin II), but the two competing Krogers on Peachtree near the Brookhaven MARTA have both improved by leaps and bounds in the last couple months. Did you know you can now buy Veggie Wash and Seventh Generation products at Kroger? I didn’t either, and when I saw the Seventh Generation display I think I stared at it open-mouthed for half a minute. (They also beat Whole Paycheck on price, I believe, if you’re wondering.)

With supermarkets, I suspect, there are two directions you can go. One route is to try to compete for the disposable income of the upper-middle class. Market One, at the corner of Ponce and North Highland, tried to do this, and was in absolutely the wrong location for it: someplace not two minutes’ drive from a Whole Foods or Sevananda might have worked better. Publix, I believe, is trying to position itself just below Whole Foods: people who are willing to pay for higher-quality food, in-store wine tastings, and (depending on your Publix) happier cashiers, but don’t particularly care to go out of their way to make sure the slaughtered chickens keep their beak on until the bitter end.

The other route is to appeal to lower-middle-class customers, which is what SaveRite was trying to do. But then you’re going to run into the 3000-pound behemoth that is Wal-Mart. I don’t know if any chain would be daring enough to try and take SaveRite’s place, or if Kroger’s going to try and extend itself far enough to present one face to wealthy Brookhaven consumers and another to people desperately needing cigarettes on Ponce at 3 a.m. Another possibility is that lower-middle-class customers will be served by a series of smaller chains that can make up in customization what they lack in bulk discounts — Atlanta Farmer’s Market on Buford Highway, for example, where meat is relatively cheap (milk is not) and there’s half an aisle devoted entirely to varieties of soy sauce.

What someone ought to figure out, though, is what to do with the buildings SaveRite leaves behind. It’s amazing, and not in a good way, that the same shopping center that happily hosts a Bruester’s, a Mellow Mushroom, the Highlander, and Midtown Art Cinema has had (or had? is that space filled yet?) such a hard time putting something in where the SaveRite used to be. People worry about what might happen if a behemoth Wal-Mart takes its ball and goes elsewhere, and rightly so. But the problem is going to hit the former SaveRite spaces too, and unless, say, the Container Store goes on a massive expansion binge, I don’t know what the solution will be.

9 Comments so far

  1. Lori (unregistered) on June 21st, 2005 @ 5:46 pm

    I pass that spot on Monroe every day and hope it turns into a Publix. They could get rid of the ghetto one at Piedmont and North.


  2. JimV (unregistered) on June 22nd, 2005 @ 8:05 am

    Grocery stores are a huge class bellwether. There’s an amazing documentary, People Like Us, that talks about this subject at some length.

    Lori,

    Rest assured some grocery store chain will move into that vacated space, and you will no longer need to shop among “ghetto” people.

    It is worth nothing that the reason that so many “ghetto” people shop at that Publix is because the surrounding neighborhoods are so underserved by grocery stores. In the meatime you can shop at the other two Publix about a mile away.


  3. Nikki (unregistered) on June 22nd, 2005 @ 9:04 am

    I miss Harris Teeter. When I lived in Charlotte, Harris Teeter was literally everywhere; meanwhile, they vacated Atlanta. No fair! They all became Krogers, so if you ever go into a weirdly high-end feeling Kroger, it was probably a Teeter at one time. (There’s one on Holcomb Bridge Road near the swanky Taco Mac.)


  4. Lori (unregistered) on June 22nd, 2005 @ 10:02 am

    JimV,

    It is also worth “nothing” [sic] that the quality & variety of products plus diminutive size of the store is vastly lacking in that particular Publix. I don’t particularly care about who shops there, but rather than why I would shop there. I don’t see a difference in the clientele at the Piedmont store versus the one on Ponce (Ansley? Yes. Many single gay beautiful males. Gorgeous.).

    Additionally, I am lazy and would rather have a good Publix a block away versus one mile. After all, isn’t that why they have chains?


  5. JimV (unregistered) on June 22nd, 2005 @ 11:09 am

    Lori,

    I guess if I am going to be snarky, I’d better learn to type better.

    Fair enough. Convenience is good and I certainly don’t blame you for wanting to shop at a more convenient supermarket (lord knows I enjoy walking to North and Piedmont).

    Supermarket chains will open wherever they can make money, but it is a frustrating failure of the market that Brookhaven can have two Krogers accross the street from each other (damn left turns!) while people in other parts of town (who often have to walk or rely on public transportation) have none within miles.

    That being said, sorry for my negative comment. I should have had a cup of coffee first.


  6. Jessica (unregistered) on June 22nd, 2005 @ 12:21 pm

    Jim,

    Having been to both the Brookhaven Krogers — one is closer, the other has my bank and the nice guy Jason who sits behind the counter thereof — I have no idea why there’s a need for both of them, other than the Cherokee Plaza Kroger takes advantage of being in a lively strip mall and the other Kroger gets overflow from the Post apartments. Also, if you’re between North Druid Hills and Wieuca on Peachtree, the Cherokee Plaza Kroger is a much better bet than the Publix in the crowded, blood-pressure-rising mall-lite with the Target and Filene’s Basement.

    I have to say I was impressed by the presentation of the Clairmont Terrace/Clairmont/Buford Highway Kroger — from its surroundings, you’d think that Kroger would be much more poorly maintained — and the Buford Highway/Northeast Plaza Publix. Although neither, for some reason, has a very good veggie selection — maybe they assume all their customers travel separately to 99 Ranch Market or Atlanta Farmer’s Market?

    There shouldn’t be a positive correlation between average income of shopper and griminess of store, and the shoppers know it — which I think may have been why SaveRite died, because by and large the SaveRites I’ve been to have been poorly-lit, unhappy places.


  7. Cap'n Ken (unregistered) on June 22nd, 2005 @ 1:44 pm

    To answer one of the first and most basic questions you put forth: Kroger stores look less consistent than Publix stores mostly because Kroger has been in Atlanta a lot longer, so they have a lot of older stores. Sure, they re-did the Ponce one, but they’re still confined by the building.

    Kroger stores are also generally larger (Kroger likes the 65K SF store, Publix likes the 54K SF store) and the company likes to play around more with layouts and looks. I remember one of their store openings in Alpharetta a decade ago when they were talking about it being a new “prototype”. And they tend to tinker more from new store to new store. Apart from having a better selection of “gourmet” food, the new Edgewood Kroger has a different overall feel than the Moreland store south of EAV, even though it’s only two years old.


  8. Lori (unregistered) on June 22nd, 2005 @ 3:36 pm

    @ JimV – no apology necessary. I understand where you were going as far as the issue of class, and it is a big issue, just not one I was bringing up.


  9. Michael (unregistered) on October 17th, 2005 @ 9:10 pm

    Sorry to comment in this old post but has anybody heard why the Buford Hwy/Northeast Plaza Publix closed. They have a sign on the door saying that they closed as of October 15th and that shoppers should visit another Publix. Surely they weren’t hurting for business. WTF!?



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