WEIRTON - Customers at a few of the Ohio Valley's Kroger locations may have noticed some changes being made in recent months, with new looks and expanded areas at three of the area's stores.
Those renovations were officially unveiled Wednesday, including at the St. Thomas Drive store in Weirton.
The 67,468 square foot location along Three Springs Drive includes a larger floral department in the front lobby of the store, as well as a new Starbucks, expanded natural food section, larger meat cases and many more changes.
The renovations reflect what is being called a "center store" concept, where items are placed where they seem to make sense.
Store and company officials explained the store has tripled the size of its natural food and gluten free area, making it one of the largest available in the area.
"That was mostly in response to customer requests," explained Jackie Siekmann, Kroger media and government relations manager.
Among the other changes at the Weirton location is the relocation and expansion of the store’s floral department. -- Craig Howell
Store manager Nathan Bowlby also pointed out the expanded cheese islands and renovated bakery section, which will provide a wider variety of cakes and other items.
The Starbucks, he said, was the first of its kind in this portion of the country.
As part of Wednesday's grand re-opening, sample stations were located throughout the store, where customers could try various selections before purchasing.
Working at one of the sample stations Wednesday was Keith Cellone, representing Delallo Foods, of Jeannette, Pa., whose products are now more widely available thanks to a new partnership with Kroger.
"We're currently in six Krogers in the Ohio Valley," Cellone said, adding they are hoping to grow.
Delallo offers a variety of Italian-style foods, including pasta, sauces, specialty cheese, spices, oils and dressings.
Another change, which Bowlby said might not be as noticeable, is the change to LED lights in all of the store's meat cases.
"Every freezer and cooler has been converted," Bowlby said.
It's part of an energy-saving measure being done company-wide, according to Siekmann, who said the energy saved by the company in the last 10 years could power the city of Fort Worth, Texas for a full year.
The Weirton location also has a larger area for its selection of Hallmark cards and gifts, as well as books and magazines.
In addition to the Weirton location, stores in Wintersville and Wheeling also recently went through renovations.
(Howell can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)