Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Combat Kroger goes sort-of-upscale

The gritty, no-frills grocery store well-known to UH students and East Enders alike is getting a facelift:
Mid-Con Contractors filed a building permit last week to remodel the store at 4000 Polk at Cullen.
The planned upgrade comes amid an ongoing transition of this area east of downtown that has seen hundreds of new townhouse developments, along with new coffee shops, breweries and bars.

The renovations include adding new shelving and refrigerator cases, new floors, new doors, remodeled bathrooms, six self-checkout lanes and "increasing selection in produce, meat and deli and bakery departments." I don't think that means an actual butcher's counter - that's the one thing the store really needs - but there's probably no room for it within the existing footprint.*

One thing I did like about that store was the lack of self-service lanes. I avoid them like the plague because they're slow and awkward to use, they're not customer-friendly (unless you enjoy a computerized voice screaming "UNEXPECTED ITEM IN THE BAGGING AREA" at you), and managers at other Kroger stores (Buffalo Speedway, I'm looking at you) seem to use them as an excuse not to staff the regular lanes. So I'm kind of sad to see that those are being added.

I no longer shop at Combat Kroger on a regular basis, since I no longer live on that side of town, but I'm glad it's finally getting some attention. People deserve a decent shopping experience and food selection regardless of their means. I can only hope that these upgrades are not accompanied by higher prices, or that this renovation, while being a sign that the neighborhood is changing, does not portend mass-scale gentrification that is going to result in the wholesale displacement of the working-class families that live in the surrounding neighborhoods.

* A commenter on the Chronicle article claims that the store will be expanded when the adjacent Dollar General's lease is up in 2020. We'll see. For a trip down memory lane, check out this memo I wrote to a Combat Kroger manager way back in 2007. 

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