SMITHERS, W.Va. — Kroger announced on Wednesday it will close its store in Smithers, West Virginia. The announcement was a blow to the town which has endured a lot of hits in recent months.
“After WVU closed Tech and the Fayette County Board of Education closed Valley High School, this is going to be a blow,” said Smithers Mayor Anne Cavalier.
Kroger blamed the closing on declining sales for the past several years. The company plans to close the doors on the store in late October. The move will put 59 who work there out of a job.
“Closing a store is a difficult decision that we take very seriously. This store’s low financial returns make it impossible to continue to operate while still upholding our low-price commitment to our customers,” said Jerry Clontz, president of Kroger’s Mid-Atlantic Division in a press release announcing the decision.
“We’re grateful for the service and dedication of the associates at the Smithers store,” added Clontz. “We appreciate their contributions and we are working with them to identify positions in other Kroger store locations. Helping our associates through this transition is our number one priority.”
The store opened in 1993 and is the smallest of the 109 stores in Krogers’ Mid-Atlantic Division.
Mayor Cavalier was shocked at the news, but added she didn’t understand how the store could be unprofitable, since it’s the only grocery store between Fayetteville and Quincy in the upper Kanawha Valley.
“It really strikes me as an unusual decision,” said Cavalier. “If you’ve got a captive audience of 20,000 people and you can’t make a store operate profitably, that doesn’t compute in my logic world.”
Cavalier has requested an opportunity to speak to Kroger leadership about the decision and hoped to talk to them about a reconsideration. The closing will create a long ride for those who live in the region.
“There’s a Wal-Mart in Quincy,” Cavalier said. “But that’s a long way to go, especially for folks to our east.”
The building which houses the Smithers Kroger isn’t owned by the grocery store chain. Cavalier had been in contact with the building owners and suspects they will have a plan in place soon to pursue another grocer for the area, possibly the same location.
“I’ve only known about it for a little less than an hour, so I don’t have any immediate plan of action in place now,” said Cavalier. “But I think you can safely say in the next few days and weeks we’ll pursue every avenue to keep a major grocery store in this area for our residents.”