ATLANTA - Around Atlanta, every Kroger has an unofficial moniker identifying its location, look or history. One of the most infamous of those identifiers was for the store located at 725 Ponce De Leon Ave NE and more than a hundred people gathered at a candlelight vigil Thursday night to say their final farewells.
The store was rechristened a few years back as Beltline Kroger, but it goes by a different name popular to most of Atlanta’s residents: “Murder Kroger.” The name is so ingrained in Atlanta’s zeitgeist; t-shirts and other parody merchandise have sprung up over the years.
“Even on Google maps it doesn't say ‘Kroger,’ it says ‘Murder Kroger.’ Like, it’s just something that all Atlantans know,” explained Rowyn Hirsch, a Georgia State University student who helped organize the vigil.
Hirsch said the candlelight vigil started as just an idea for her and her friends to celebrate the infamous grocery store, but when she made a public Facebook event, the vigil grew rapidly.
“Atlanta is so weird and I love it,” said Rachel Bowen, who co-hosted the event. “The fact that we have all our Krogers… I live near the ‘Kosher Kroger,’ there’s the ‘Disco Kroger.’ It shows that there's a really strong community connection here and I love it. I love this city so much.”
At the beginning of the year, it was announced the Poncey-Highland neighborhood property would be turned into a massive mixed-use development with a new 60,000 square-foot Kroger grocery store situated below 360,000 square-feet of office space.
The groundbreaking was on the $190 million redevelopment was set for spring, but was pushed back while the developer acquired another 5.5 acres for the project. But it was now just announce they will be closing the store this month to being construction.
The project site sits next to the Ponce City Market, which refurbished the once massive Sears Roebuck and Co. warehouse that had been used under the name City Hall East to house police headquarters and other government offices for the City of Atlanta.
Hirsch and Bowen said they were disappointed to learn of the plans to demolish the Kroger and say the vigil also served as somewhat of a protest of gentrification in the area.
“Not that I shop there, it’s just an Atlanta icon and it’s sad that they’re tearing it down,” said Hirch.
Kroger employees said it will likely close up shop for good at around 4 p.m. Friday.