MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - After more than a year and a half of questions, Kroger has determined the fate of their shuttered grocery store in Orange Mound. Kroger officials said they are donating the Lamar Avenue building to Superlo Foods.
Superlo Foods runs in Randy Stepherson’s blood.
"I was born into the family business," Stepherson said.
Stepherson says his father started the locally owned grocery chain 75 years ago.
Therefore, his appearance at a rival grocery store chain on Monday might have seemed like a surprise.
"I would never have expected to be standing in the lobby of Kroger Delta Division headquarters," Stepherson said.
His comments caused those gathered in the room, including Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland to laugh with delight, but Stepherson had good reason to be at Kroger.
In an unusual business move, Kroger announced it was giving away a piece of property worth half a million dollars to Superlo--and it’s not just any property.
"Never done this before in our history," said Victor Smith, president of Kroger Delta Division.
Kroger closed the store in February of last year, after losing money. The store’s closing was surprising to many in Orange Mound who used the grocery, pharmacy and bank that were all in the building.
Councilwoman Jamita Swearingen says the closure hit the community hard.
"It was catastrophic. Because there was no warning," said Swearingen. "We didn't have any full-service grocery store."
Community leaders criticized Kroger.
Reverend Jesse Jackson even called for a boycott.
Kroger made a promise since the Lamar Avenue location closed. City leaders have been vocal about finding solutions to getting a grocer back in Orange Mound.
"When we had to unfortunately close the store, which is not what we're in the business of doing, we made a promise to help get a grocer, a full-service grocer back to the community," said Smith.
When Kroger first approached Stepherson last year, he said the timing wasn't right.
"We thought it was a great opportunity," said Stepherson. "Unfortunately, we're a small company and very conservative with our fiscal policy. We had just bitten off Parkway Village and did not feel that we were prepared to bite off two at once."
More than a year later, they finally found themselves in a much better position.
Superlo Foods hopes to open a new grocery store at the site by Dec. 1.
“That might be a bridge too far,” said Stepherson. “We’ve got to get in and get the building going. We’ve got to hire people. We’ve got to get it stocked, starting from scratch, two months might be a little tight, but we’re hoping.”