LINCOLN — Two Central Illinois Kroger stores will close at the end of the month, the company announced Thursday morning.
Kroger’s Central Division released a statement that the Lincoln store at 1475 Woodlawn Road will close when its current lease expires. At the same time, the Fairview Park Plaza Kroger, a longtime anchor of the west-side shopping center in Decatur, also is closing at the end of August.
“Kroger has long monitored operations, hoping the (Lincoln) store could return to profitability; however, recent evaluations suggest such improvement is no longer realistic,” the company said in the statement.
In Decatur, there are other Kroger stores in Brettwood Village on the city's north side, at Airport Plaza on the city's east side and at South Shores Plaza.
Including management, there are 76 employees at the Lincoln location.
Lincoln Mayor Seth Goodman said city officials had no clue the store was in danger.
“I spent much of the morning fielding calls from disappointed residents,” he said. “It’s unfortunate. I have a call into Kroger and am anxious to talk to them because we would like to try and save it, but that doesn’t appear to be possible. We will work to try and fill that space and find jobs for those employees.”
There are no other Kroger stores in Lincoln. There are at least five other stores that sell groceries.
The company said its human resources department would use the remaining weeks to help employees at both stores prepare for the transition and try to find them positions at other Kroger stores.
“This isn’t a decision we liked to make, obviously, but losses have been significant in both the Decatur and Lincoln stores,” said Kroger spokesman Eric Halvorson. “There is nothing to indicate that a turnaround is coming. We just had to make that decision with the leases coming up.”
The company stressed the closings are not a reflection on the stores' employees or their work performance.
"The associates have performed extremely well and have been committed to customer service in spite of the business challenges around them," said the company. "Kroger will continue to count on their dedication through the coming month."
The announcement is the second bit of bad news for the Decatur shopping center this week. Documents obtained by the Herald & Review revealed plans by Convey Health Solutions Inc. to close its call center there by the end of September. That announcement affects 150 employees.
Kroger has three stores in Bloomington-Normal, and company officials in July told The Pantagraph they still intend to build a Marketplace-style store on College Avenue in northeast Bloomington despite termination of an incentive agreement by the city.
In its final form, that agreement that began in February 2016 and was amended in December of that year called for the city to rebate $2.45 million in sales tax over 10 years in exchange for starting construction on a $24.5 million, 128,000-square-foot store by Jan. 31, 2018.
City officials previously said the company did not meet the deadlines for commencement of construction, so the agreement was null and void.
Despite that decision, Kroger said the project remains on the drawing board.
"Our division’s real estate experts tell me they are awaiting further direction from our corporate headquarters," Halvorson said.
If built, the new store would replace the longtime Kroger store at 1550 E. College Ave. in Normal.