Folks lined up outside Suffolk’s newest grocery store early Wednesday during a grand opening that included free food and a pearl bracelet set for the first customers.
Just inside the front doors of the Kroger Marketplace at 1017 University Blvd., the company’s largest store in Virginia, employees handed out reusable Kroger bags with eggs, bacon, juice and bread.
A large contingent of city officials turned out for the opening event, which included the ribbon cutting, donations to three organizations benefiting the community — The Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore, The Genieve Shelter and The MWM Foundation — and the unveiling of a community room dedicated to a former Suffolk police officer brutally beaten in 2012 while in the line of duty.
“It’s an honor,” said James Winslow, as he and wife Sarah Winslow inspected police memorabilia on the wall, including his framed uniform.
“I’m glad that the citizens still remember me and what I went through.”
Thomas Bennett, chief of Suffolk Police, said he made the initial suggestion that the room honor Winslow. “We have worked together to decorate the room and get it all ready,” Bennett said.
While Winslow is no longer in uniform, Bennett said, “He will always be a police officer in our hearts and minds. He will always be a part of our team.”
The food bags went to the first 500 Kroger customers, while the first 100 at Fred Meyer Jewelers — a store within the marketplace — also received a pearl bracelet set.
Virginia’s fifth and largest Kroger Marketplace spans 128,000 square feet, according to its manager, Ricky Green.
Additional to the expansive grocery section is 30,000 square feet items including apparel, home décor, pet supplies, baby gear, toys and bedding.
Hampton Roads Crossing developer The Terry Peterson Companies sold the site to Kroger to further develop its Hampton Roads footprint for the Marketplace concept, adding to stores in Virginia Beach and Portsmouth.
“We took it through the rezoning process, then developed the surrounding infrastructure, then sold this site to Kroger,” said John Peterson III, senior vice president with the developer.
The new store will accelerate further development of the precinct, Peterson said. A 100,000-square-foot shopping center directly north of the Kroger will break ground in the spring, he said, as will three outparcels — Zaxby’s chicken, Texas Roadhouse restaurant and Express Oil Change and Service Center — about the same time.
“All the tenants we have committed would not have been there without Kroger,” Peterson said.
Nansemond borough councilman Lue Ward said the general area was a cow pasture when he first arrived in Suffolk.
“The people around here deserve what’s going on, and I think they will support it,” Ward said. “It means a lot to me that I can look across the street and see a Kroger.”
Economic Development Director Kevin Hughes said the city worked with The Terry Peterson Companies to present the site to Kroger after the grocery chain began scouting sites in its “growth territory” of Virginia and Hampton Roads.
“Obviously, Kroger is a great entity, (and) they serve as an anchor to bring in junior anchors and more retail around them,” Hughes said.