City Council approves study to fill closed Kroger stores

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Two Memphis Kroger locations have been closed for more than a month.

On Tuesday, Memphis City Council members discussed a new plan to fill those locations and other vacant buildings across the city.

Debate and outrage over Kroger's decision, publicized in January, have been brewing for months.

Now, there are hopes that someone will decide those closed stores may be a good investment.

"This is something that affects tens of thousands of Memphians," council member Edmund Ford Jr. said.

Ford has been vocal since Kroger announced its plans to shut down the stores on South Third Street and Lamar Avenue effective Feb. 3.

A council committee approved paying $18,500 Tuesday for a grocery feasibility study to examine ways to bring other grocery stores to the area.

As for questions about the cost, Ford said it's money worth spending.

"This is a need in these two communities, so let's just go ahead and get it done," Ford said.

The decision by Kroger has been controversial, sparking public meetings and even protests.

Kroger said the stores lost millions of dollars and that's why they shut them down.

"It's highly important for us to make sure that not only do we have the information and the facts for them, but we help do our part and align all the necessary pieces so that they can be successful in those spaces," Rhonnie Brewer said.

Brewer, who's with the consulting firm Socially Twisted, will help conduct the study by providing market research like sales numbers to grocers to try to woo them into the closed locations.

Brewer said the aim isn't just to fill the shuttered storefronts. They hope interested grocers could set up shop in multiple places in Memphis.

"Ideally we could find someone who may be willing to open another 10 to 12 stores," Brewer said.

The study should be complete in two weeks, and city council will hear it at their next meeting.

They are trying to make an April 1 deadline to get a new grocer in the vacant building, because the state is changing over its WIC voucher program to an electronic system and will not approve new acceptance licenses past that point.

The C3 Land Cooperative responded by starting up a community garden. That's one of the charities in which CNN commentator Angela Rye donated part of her speaking fee when she was invited to the I Am A Man commemoration two weeks ago.

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