New store: Better than crackers in a barrel

By Regina Villiers.  Originally published February 11, 2004 in The Suburban Life, added February 13, 2017.

The Madeira Kroger store at its third location, on Laurel Avenue by the post office. This photo was taken by Cleo Hosbrook April 14, 1983.

A sign shows a temporary entrance during the height of the renovation and construction of the new Madeira Kroger store.

Quite a few weeks ago, Wanda, one of my favorite scanners at Madeira’s Kroger store, said to me, “I wish you’d write something positive about our store.” I told her I would.

At the time, the woman in front of me had hopped on Wanda like a robin on an earthworm, carping about the size of the store and the location of bananas.  “I don’t want to walk a mile for bananas.  Why don’t you keep them up by the registers?”  she snarled.

As a lifelong Kroger customer, I felt it my duty that day to stand up for Wanda, Barb and all the other nice Kroger people who were doing their best to cope with the mess and inconvenience of the renovation of the store, while turning the other cheek to complaining customers.  I’m sure that supersizing the store wasn’t their idea.  But they were handling it well, especially the young manager who rushed up and down 24/7, tie flying behind him, as he directed operations and took complaints from surly customers on the side.  He seemed in control, but I truly felt sorry for him, especially after my neighbor told me she took him on because of the morning coffee-drinkers.  “I told him I was good and tired of people drinking coffee there and hanging around in my way.  Why don’t they drink coffee at home?”

When the renovation started, people started complaining.  It was the summer of Madeira’s discontent.  The citywide cry was, “It’s too big.  Why do we need a bigger store? The old one was all we needed.”

Then the back half of the new store opened, and the complaints intensified.  “Why can’t the bananas be up by the registers” people whined.  “Have the milk by the registers,” said others.  “And the bread.”  “I can never find the bread,” was a constant cry.  And on it went. Ad infinitum.

But it was only human nature at work.  It’s human nature to find fault and complain and to rail against progress.  People have always done it, and they always will, I suspect.

The first Kroger store in Madeira, according to the late Dick Valentiner, was on the corner of Miami and Camargo, across from the dry cleaners.  It was in the building built by Julius Fleischmann in the mid-1920’s.  These buildings were demolished around 1998 to make way for Walgreens.

Dick told me there have been four Kroger stores in Madeira.  I’m not sure when Kroger moved from Miami and Camargo, probably late 1920’s to early 1930’s, but the second location, Dick said, was in the block down from Adrien’s Pharmacy.  It was in the location of Starbuck’s.  I’m sure people complained about all those moves too.

From there, Kroger moved to Laurel Avenue, next to the post office, the current location of Meyer Hardware.  I lived here by the time Kroger moved from that location.  Kroger and Meyer swapped locations.  Kroger built a new store in back of the old Meyer store, and Meyer moved to its current location, the old Kroger store.

I heard all the grumbling that took place then, which as I recall, was mostly about the aesthetics of the situation, which bothered my non-aesthetic soul not at all.  I go to a business for products, service or convenience, not because of a hanging basket out front or the location of a fence.

The first grocery store in Madeira that I know about was the Muchmore store in the Muchmore Building on Miami, by the train tracks.  This building was owned by brothers E.G. and Joseph Muchmore in the early 1900’s.  Joseph was the grandfather of Cleo Hosbrook, and she described the store for me, as she remembered it.  Food was kept in bulk at the store, she said, and was stored in barrels, bins, crocks and churns.  Everything had to be scooped up, ladled or handed out.  I’m sure that when packaging came along, there were people who complained because they could no longer fish their pickles out of a churn.

Other early Madeira grocery stores were Tice’s, Hemsath’s and Dot and Mack’s.  I believe Dick Valentiner also told me there was an A&P store in the Mar-Jean Building, at one time, in the area where Denny Ladrigan now has his insurance agency.  If any of you have other information about the history of Madeira stores, I’d appreciate hearing from you.

But back to the Kroger megastore of today.

I went out of town for a few weeks and was not here for the finishing and re-opening of the new store.

In January, I returned and went up there with a long list to replenish my pantry.  With apprehension, I walked in the new entrance, thinking it would take me hours to search out everything.  Wrong!  I went through in half the time I usually do.  The store is spacious, well marked, and laid out in a logical manner.  The whole thing makes sense, and to me, seems so easy.

My only disappointment is that neither Barb nor Wanda are not always available to scan my order, but others, such as Scott, are efficient.  And Debby has taken me through USCAN.  Since I have the technical aptitude of a toad, I’ll probably never be able to do that by myself.  But there are nice people to help me.

I’m anxious for my kids to come.  They live in the deep South in a small town with a small, but adequate, supermarket.  They though my old Kroger was wonderful.  They’ll flip out over this one.  Kevin will lose himself in the books and magazine aisle.  Katy will disappear in art and school supplies.

Christopher will check out Hot Wheels and the variety of snacks and “pop,” while Patsy and I shop for food.  She may even buy sushi.

So, Wanda, I hope you feel defended.  I like your store and all the people in it.  I don’t mind walking to get bananas or milk.  I like history, but progress is OK by me.  And I have absolutely no desire to go back to the old days, fishing my dill pickle from a vat or my crackers from a barrel.

Onward, outward, and upward.