Emory Report

July 13, 1998

 Volume 50, No. 35

Emory neighbors, faculty and students rally to protest closing of Emory Village Kroger

The rumors started circulating in late spring. But when the Atlanta Business Chronicle reported in early June the imminent closing of the Emory Village Kroger, Druid Hills residents and some Emory faculty and students remaining on campus over the summer mobilized to protest.

Quickly organized meetings held June 22 and June 29 gave residents and members of the Emory community a chance to talk with the new property owners and Kroger representatives about the decision. The second meeting, held in Glenn Church's Fellowship Hall, was packed, reported Candler Professor of English John Sitter, who estimated 300 to 500 people attended.

"I think I speak for many when I say that I was (and remain) angered and disappointed that this all went on in secret and that the developers waited until after many of Emory's students (who would have rallied in protest) had left for the summer," a student wrote in a message posted on LearnLink urging people to attend the June 29 meeting.

The Kroger store sits on two acres of land previously owned by G&W properties, a family-held company that had managed the property since the 1930s, when it was first developed, according to the Chronicle article. Partners Jan Saperstein and Jeff Kerker purchased the site and have formed Emory Village LLC, which also includes the buildings housing Village Hair, Emory Village Laundry, Gumbo a Go-Go, AM Photo and Emory Village Bookstore. A spokesperson for CVS/Pharmacy told the Chronicle the drug store has signed a lease for the Kroger building and plans to open there next spring. Saperstein and Kerker, who did not attend the second meeting, confirmed this June 22.

Kroger intends to close the grocery store, which first opened in 1942, shortly after Thanksgiving, when its lease expires, said Terry Evans, real estate manager for the Atlanta division. Kroger is leaving the profitable site reluctantly, Evans said, but the new owners approached the company with rent increases three to four times what Kroger currently pays. The grocer might reconsider staying, Evans added, if the new owners made it financially feasible.

"We envision an Emory Village that's responsive to the needs of the University and its neighbors," said Betty Willis, director of community affairs, "and would like to see future development in the village beneficial to the entire neighborhood."

Thea Roser, one of the organizers of the June meetings, intends to make that point loud and clear to the new property owners. "My vision is to keep a grocery store [in the area] and support merchants that are already there. They are successful," she stressed. "Everything we need is in the village now-a drug store, restaurants, coffee shops, bookstore and grocery."

Roser, who is organizing petition drives aimed at CVS and the developers, intends to lead a boycott if CVS locates there. "The developers have chosen wisely to invest in our neighborhood," said Roser, who planned to meet with them again last week. She likened the property they now manage to an uncut jewel: "Cut it the right way and it's valuable; cut it the wrong way, and it crumbles in your hand."

Willis said incoming SGA President Chuck Divine also intends to talk with the developers about the site in hopes they will consider some of the products and services students would like them to offer. Though she is vitally interested in and understands the community's concerns, Willis said, she hopes that Emory and its neighbors can continue to find productive ways in which to address these concerns.

She added that the University will continue to work with the Druid Hills Civic Association, Emory Village merchants and DeKalb County to make the village more pedestrian friendly and accessible.

For Roser, there's no doubt Emory and Druid Hills are losing a good neighbor with Kroger's closing. She recalled that when her best friend's son died last year, the store's manager sent the family groceries and other items he thought they would need during that difficult time. "It's a community center," Rosen said of Emory Village Kroger. "From a real estate standpoint, that grocery store is worth millions-a CVS is worth nothing."

-Stacey Jones

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