Leaders Working Hard to Lure New Grocer

BENWOOD – Benwood leaders are offering the promise of tax breaks and a new 60,000-square-foot building at a busy location to attract a grocery store to the city.

The Kroger store in Benwood is set to close Aug. 25, and Benwood officials said they are working diligently to bring another grocery store to the community. The owner of the plaza where Kroger is located, IMI Fabi, has plans to expand and is not extending Kroger’s lease.

At a recent Benwood City Council meeting, Police Chief Frank Longwell said Mike Ferns Sr. – owner of the A&B Kia plaza across Marshall Street from Kroger – has offered to build a 60,000 square-foot building on his property for any grocery chain wishing to locate there. The building would be twice the size of the current Kroger, he noted.

In addition, the city would consider tax breaks for entity owning the store, Longwell said.

“I think we have a hell of a package from a developer willing to spend his money, build the building and provide the land,” he said. “There are 23,000 cars a day that go past there. It’s a hell of a spot for a grocery store.”

But Longwell added the city has approached a number of grocery store chains with no positive results.

“Some called back – some didn’t,” he commented.

Ferns confirmed he has been contacting a number of grocery chains about re-locating to his plaza.

“Benwood really needs a grocery store,” he said.

Mayor Ed Kuca added Benwood has offered the package to Kroger to relocate across the street, but company representatives didn’t appear interested.

“They’ve put a lot of money into the store putting in a new refrigerator unit and shelving,” he said. “I’ve told them, ‘All you have to do is move across the street. You are going to have to move those things out of there anyway.’

“I haven’t heard anything, and it has been two weeks.”

Jackie Siekmann, spokeswoman for Kroger, explained the company makes plans for its stores years ahead of time, and is currently working on stores that are to open in 2020.

“We’re not ruling out any moves in the future,” she explained. “But we allocate capital for our stores years in advance.

“We just found out about the Benwood lease not being renewed late last year, and we don’t have the capital or the plans in place to open a store there at that time.”

Even if a new building were constructed for Kroger, there would be leasing costs and additional monies needed to operate the store, Siekmann continued.

Kuca said the Benwood Kroger serves those living in Benwood, McMechen and the surrounding communities, and these residents can take advantage of 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. bus service to the store.

“Hopefully, a new grocery store for Benwood will be a reality,” he said. “We have no other options. We will stay on it until someone tells me it can’t be done.”