A Kroger by any other nickname
The nickname has dogged the Kroger at 725 Ponce de Leon for years.
According to the lore, there was a murder in the parking lot in the early 1990’s. In 2002, a stench in the parking lot led to the discovery of a dead body inside a car. The band Attractive Eighties Women immortalized the store’s nickname with a song, “Murder Kroger.”
But “Murder Kroger” is one of more than a dozen in and around Atlanta that have an alias. Some are infamous, like the label on the Ponce de Leon Store. Some are funny, like Disco Kroger and East Snobb. Some are downright offensive. You can click here to see a handy Google map that someone made listing named stores in the metro area.
So why are Atlanta Krogers a magnet for monikers? Decaturish dropped by for the “re-grand opening” of the “Beltline Kroger” Wednesday morning searching for an answer.
The parking lot, once infamous for the odor of decay, had been repaved and smelled of match heads. Kroger’s top brass stood in front of a mural designed by Savannah College of Art and Design students. A multicultural ensemble of pink cheeks and cherub curls covered the wall like camouflage.
Rick Lovell, program coordinator for the Illustration Department at SCAD, gave his explanation for the phenomenon of Atlantans naming their Krogers.
“They are sort of neighborhood hubs and in the spirit of friendship, people that are friends with each other give each other nicknames,” Lovell said. “There’s a friendship element of it and names sort of stick.”
That they do. The Ponce de Leon store opened in 1986, well before Publix and Wal-Mart came to town. Kroger invested $2.5 million into the improving the 51,000 square foot store over the last two years. The company replaced all of the equipment and added eco-friendly fixtures. Kroger also added a bicycle repair and pet watering station.
None of the speakers at the re-opening ceremony muttered “Murder,” but Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall alluded to it during his remarks. He said Kroger should get credit for sticking with in-town Atlanta nearly 30 years, making an investment few other companies would.
“It’s an asset in our community,” Hall said. “In spite of all the things that we might have heard that people say about this store, I love this place.”
After the hoopla, Hall did a little shopping inside the store. He offered his own theory on the named Kroger phenomenon.
“At one point Kroger kind of was our main staple store in Atlanta and it may still be the one,” Hall said. “We like to give affectionate names to things and maybe at one point someone said, that’s near the disco, near the club, we’ll call it Disco Kroger.”
Of course, not all of the labels come from a place of friendship and affection, or the company wouldn’t be trying to recast the Ponce store as Beltline Kroger.
Hall said the store’s notorious nom de guerre could also be one that reinforces perceptions some people have about in-town Atlanta.
“It is a place where you see very different people who reflect the creative and alternative scene in Atlanta and, to those who are more traditional, they would be initially shaken up,” Hall said. “Just like you’re shaken up by seeing difference in terms of art and people who are not like you.”
Jerry Moreton, Vice President of Administration at Kroger, has worked in seven different Kroger markets. Atlanta is the only one that applies pet names to the company’s stores, he said.
“People think they’re fun for the most part,” Moreton said. “Obviously this one was a little troublesome to us just because of the image that it portrays.”
He attributes the naming tradition to the company’s longevity in the metro area.
“Kroger has been willing to go into most neighborhoods in the city,” Moreton said. “We like to serve a cross section of people.”
One of those people is Hannah McArdle, who recently moved to Atlanta. Before she’d ever shopped at the Ponce de Leon Kroger, she’d heard tales of its murderous handle.
“I learned it very quickly,” she said as she pushed a shopping cart in the parking lot on Wednesday. “It never deterred me from shopping here.”
Editor’s note: The map linked in this article was not created by, or on behalf of, Decaturish.