October 19, 1998
Volume 51, No. 8
Students vow to keep open minds in Kroger closing battle
Emory students are being asked to take a stand regarding the closing of the Kroger grocery store in Emory Village. At an Oct. 1 Student Government-sponsored forum led by SGA President Chuck Divine, Thea Roser, the Druid Hills resident leading opposition to the store's closing, and Amanda Brown-Olmstead, public relations council to CVS, which plans to open a drug store on the site, refused to meet with the students together, each deciding to present their cases separately.
About 30 students came to the forum, asking both women tough questions about their stances and ultimately deciding not take sides yet. Roser urged Emory students to "stay focused" and not get sidetracked regarding the Kroger store's shortcomings or those of Emory Village. "This [effort] is to keep a grocery store in the community because it supports the entire community," she said.
Emory students represent 15 percent of Kroger's shoppers, Roser said. "There needs to be a plan for the entire village," she conceded, "but don't let that jeopardize the grocery store because of your need to make a plan. Without the store, the village will die."
Roser told the group that an anonymous buyer had indicated interest in the property--the developers implied in a meeting with Roser they'd be willing to sell--but the buyer is "not interested in the property if CVS holds the lease" and "will not step forward until these legalities are solved." CVS has signed a 20-year lease.
After Roser left the meeting, Divine said he understood the selling price of the Kroger property to be $8 million--double the purchase price.
"CVS is going to move into Emory Village, and they're going to be a good neighbor," Brown-Olmstead said. She told students that about 50 percent of the drug store's stock will be grocery items--everything but fresh produce and meat--and will include "enhanced supplies and appliances." Plans call for the store to remain open 24 hours a day.
CVS officials plan to hold focus groups among Emory students and say they will return the grocery store façade to its original appearance and add benches, bicycle racks and large trees to the present streetscape and spruce up its appearance.
When students asked about the cost of grocery items in the store, Brown-Olmstead answered that CVS's buying power-the company has 4,000 stores on the East Coast-would keep costs low. Speaking carefully, she called the threatened boycott lead by Roser "emotional resistance" and said the residents she's talked with have indicated they'll support a CVS drug store. It's not likely someone will come up with the $8 million purchase price, Brown-Olmstead added.
About the only thing Brown-Olmstead and Roser agreed upon in their separate discussions with the students was that it will be several months after Kroger's closing--now scheduled for December--before the drug store opens. The CVS store currently on North Decatur Road at Clairmont will be closed. The longstanding village druggist, Stacy's Pharmacy, was bought out by CVS and closed earlier this fall.
Roser and Brown-Olmstead each came to the students armed with their respective promises--Roser to keep fighting and to boycott a CVS store at any cost, Brown-Olmstead to seek the students' input in making the impending drug store more "customer friendly" for them. Ultimately, the assembled students decided, the credibility of both sides rests on their ability to keep their respective promises.