Freddy Kroger leaves Dayton- takes a classic building with him

Ecki Building remains

The end of the historic Ecki Building

Freddy Kroger is gone- the Kroger store on Wayne Avenue, long known by a whole list of aliases- because of its disgusting appearance- is no more.

Now, we’re greeted with clean floors, a well lighted store with clean ceilings, new colorful graphics around the perimeter and shelving that seems a bit more modern. The deli/bakery area still seems a little dark and mysterious compared to the appearance of a newer Kroger Marketplace, but overall, it’s a lot nicer.

My mother, 83, still thinks it’s a wonderful place. She’s always impressed with the produce- and finds the staff more than helpful at getting special orders like buckwheat flour, or buttermilk dry mix.

The parking lot is still a bit dangerous with the steep pitch that can turn a grocery cart into a soapbox derby demolition car- and the outside signage still looks a little rough- but, overall- it’s not an embarrassment to Kroger- or the neighborhood anymore.

What’s sad is that the Kroger Company didn’t do this long ago. Had they invested the pittance they did- maybe we could have avoided going on the wild goose chase for a “new and improved” super Kroger at the corner of Wayne and Wyoming.

The city, without a contract or a performance guarantee by either Kroger or the “developer,” Midland Atlantic, went on a 6 year calamity course.

First- they tried eminent domain to aggregate over 80 lots to make room for the new store. Then, when the Supreme Court ruled that eminent domain for private business was a long stretch, went on a mad spending spree. First- they declared the neighborhood “blighted” to guarantee that it would be as people would defer maintenance on their soon-to-be-torn-down homes. Then, multiple appraisals, multiple options to buy, and a whole bunch of money and time spent. Then, buying the corner buildings for $800,000 as the final step in their grand plan- only to be told by Kroger- sorry, we’ve changed our mind.

All this- in spite of the property that met the requirements over on Brown Street- and a plan floated by local developer Jeff Samuelson- utilizing the former Cliburn Manor DMHA space- which is now another empty field of dreams.

So, as the bulldozers did their job yesterday- probably costing the taxpayers at least another $50K- we did what we’re so good at doing in Dayton these days- built yet another empty lot. Of course, we’ll be lucky if the-cash strapped city can mow it more than twice a year- despite the millions wasted on this wild goose chase.

Had we spent the millions on appraisals on refurbishing the Ecki building and seeded the neighborhood with incentives to fix and upgrade the properties- we’d have been better off. Of course, if Kroger hadn’t let Freddy take over the store- we’d have avoided the whole mess.

Kroger has been a horrible citizen in the city of Dayton- with the abandoning of the Gettysburg store after a less than 20-year run. The Wayne Avenue and the Smithville Rd. stores always looked like poor stepchildren to the suburban stores. But, that’s the advantage of being the only national chain around.

I’ll be very disappointed if the city gives the corner over to Kroger for one of their gas stations- Kroger doesn’t deserve any favors at this point. In fact, they should take responsibility for the planting and maintenance of this corner for as long as they operate at the current location. It’s the least they could do in return.

Let this serve as a case study of how to always have an exit strategy before investing public dollars in private ventures- our investment should have strings attached, at least a guarantee of matching dollars returned to the community for any investment we make.

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed! If you wish to support this blog and independent journalism in Dayton, consider donating. All of the effort that goes into writing posts and creating videos comes directly out of my pocket, so any amount helps!