Oct. 03--Kroger marked the end of a nine-month, $7.6 million renovation of its Seminary Square store on South College Avenue in Bloomington Thursday morning.
Company officials were on hand for a grand reopening in the store, which expanded its footprint a few feet into its parking lot and grew from 47,000 square feet to 52,000 square feet with the remodeling. The store's interior has been overhauled, according to its manager, Todd Ladow.
"We built a new store," he said. "We just left three walls."
Changes include a new beverage center with a seating area, a larger and more up-to-date produce department and a renovated pharmacy with a walk-up window. Cincinnati-based Kroger (NYSE: KR) also upgraded the downtown Bloomington store's meat and seafood department, its deli and its bakery. And it added new sushi and specialty cheese islands.
The store remained open through most of the construction, only closing for about three weeks, Ladow said.
Staying open was hard on grocery employees, according to Jeff Burt, president of Kroger's central division.
Standing behind a podium at the grand reopening ceremony, Burt acknowledged the difficulty workers faced.
"Sorry, it was a tough one," he said. "It's hard to do a remodel. It really is. And when you do one like this, it's incredibly difficult."
Geoffrey Covert, Kroger senior vice president, complimented employees for keeping the store in working order during the construction. He walked through the store several weeks ago and was impressed with its condition, he said.
"The store was in the middle of being redone, but it was in really great shape," Covert said.
Kroger hopes to add up to 50 employees at the Seminary Square store because of its expansion. The grocer has already taken on 23 new employees there, and it's still hiring. The store currently has 114 workers.
The $7.6 million renovation at the Seminary Square store brings Kroger's total investment in Bloomington over the past five years to $19.8 million, according to the company. It's added 111 new jobs in the area over that time frame, it said.
Kroger has four stores in Bloomington. Its central division is largely made up of stores in Indiana and Illinois, but it also has a handful of stores in Missouri, Michigan and Ohio.
The central division has a total of 136 food stores, 114 pharmacies and 77 fuel centers.
It also operates locations under the Scott's, Owen's and Pay Less names.
Kroger posted company-wide sales of $96.8 billion in 2012. It operates a total of 2,419 stores in 31 states.
The grocer used the Seminary Square reopening to recognize the store's longest-serving employee, Ron Gray. Gray has been at Kroger for 44 years.
At the event, the company also made donations to several local charities.
It gave $1,000 to the Humane Society of Monroe County, $500 to the Monroe County Historical Society, and $500 to Volunteers in Medicine of Monroe County.