This is Grocery Week at the Examiner, and today we will be taking a look back at one of our most well preserved historical buildings in town, Kroger, on Main Avenue.
Kroger customers visiting store #261 at 302 North Main are left feeling stuck in the 1970s as they walk through the first motion activated electric doors the city ever saw installed. Tommy Glidders shares his memory, “I remember when these doors were put in, sure Sav-On-Foods had an electric door, but you had to stand on the pad in front of it to make it open. Kroger‘s doors just opened as you approached without delay. It was a magical sort of thing, the likes of which I thought were reserved for big cities like Waco or Belton.” This was the last time the Brownwood Kroger had anything modern installed on the outside of the building.
The facade has been hard on the eyes since its construction. If the paving stone style gravel/rock walls on the exterior of the building could speak, there is no telling the stories they could tell. From being covered in crickets in the hot Texas sun to being surrounded by flood waters, this store has experienced it all. According to Brown County Appraisal District records, the building was constructed in ‘year 0.’ The Examiner was unable to confirm if this is accurate or if the Kroger location just simply predates the forming of Brown County so no accurate record exists. Either case presents a valid argument that as of press time had yet to be resolved. Only the Kroger locations in Houston and Grand Prairie are older in Texas.
As if the outside of the building was not ugly enough, there is hardly a night where all 6 of the large ‘KROGER‘ letters are lit up on the front of the building. The letters are so large that it is rumored one can clearly read them some 4 miles away from the top floors of the Brownwood Regional Medical Center. Infact, Glidders believes this is why the letters were made to be so large, “you know, Brownwood does have a lot of elderly people, and elderly people love Kroger. It’s no surprise that they made the letters large so that those people could see the store without magnification.” Martha Burt, a local nursing home resident appreciates the letters when they work, “one night I saw the sign said ‘ROGER’ but my younger sister reminded me that the ‘K’ had just burned out and I was relieved to learn that the store had not changed names.”
The sign in the parking lot is possibly the newest addition to the Kroger location, but only because it is routinely re-placed after taking excursions around the area during high winds. The sign is not modernized as the classic ‘box’ maintains that classic 1970s nostalgia. A special fabricating firm in Memphis designs the ‘box’ sign every few years for the handful of stores yet to use modern branding. “One night I saw that thing just take off and land across the street at Hastings,” Glidder recounted. “It was fortunate no one got hit by that mammoth sign.”
Contrary to the outside of the building, the inside has been renovated in recent years, however that did not fix the sloping floor according to local shopper Harris Gnat, “one time I had stopped in to get a Big K soda and put my son in the cart, when I got to the soda aisle I parked my son next to me while I searched for Big K. By the time I had found my Big K my son had rolled clear down to the dairy. They need to level that place off!”
It’s no surprise that Brownwood shoppers love Kroger, as it is undoubtedly the city’s oldest remaining grocery store. At one point in the 1970s, you could smoke inside Kroger. There were even ash trays built in to the shelves. Much has changed since those days. It has withstood the closing of two Save-On-Foods and a Save-A-Lot, countless corner grocers, and speciality chains like Fiesta Foods. it has weathered the storm of a Wal-Mart Supercenter that was constructed in 1992, and it survived the Brookshires takeover and renovation of the former Winn-Dixie. Now, with two new grocery stores on Brownwood’s horizon, shoppers hope that Kroger once and for all does some exterior renovations or builds a new store altogether. Brady Sanders shared his thoughts, “We have United Supermarket and Aldi both coming in, Kroger had better step up to the plate if they want to keep my business! I’d love to see a new store and no more free bags!”