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Downtown Weirton Kroger closes its doors for good

CLOSED FOR GOOD — The downtown Weirton Kroger closed its doors forever Friday. The store had been a downtown landmark since June 1955. (Photo by Linda Harris)

WEIRTON — Customers and employees were more than a little sad Friday as the clock ticked down on the Main Street Kroger, a fixture in the downtown area for 65 years.

Friday was the store’s last day. The company blamed its closing on sagging sales, though that was hard to believe given the crowds of shoppers poking through clearance bins.

“We moved here 41 years ago from Follansbee,” Marland Heights resident Patty Criss said. “My husband, Roger, was a Weirton policeman and I worked at Weirton Medical Center. It was the main place we shopped the last 41 years.”

Criss was still carrying a few of the long-stemmed yellow roses she’d been passing out to store employees, pointing out her husband had stopped by earlier to say his goodbyes with a round of applause.

“Yellow roses signify friendship,” she’d said. “To me, the people who worked there were more like family, they were all friends.”

Longtime employees are transferring to other stores in the area, but that doesn’t mean they’re happy about it.

“This is family,” one 20-plus year employee said. “I don’t want to go anywhere else. I guess all good things have to come to an end. But it’s not going to be the same, it’s never going to be the same. This is home.”

Another person pointed out the closing will be a hardship for the many downtown residents who don’t have cars. While Weirton Transit is making accommodations for them, some, particularly the elderly, are reluctant to board a bus for fear of exposing themselves to COVID-19.

“No one asked me if this is OK,” she’d said. “And with what’s happening in the country why would you do this now to a small community like this? The timing is horrible.”

Criss said she was one of the many Weirton residents who contacted Kroger headquarters to express their doubts about the closing in hopes of persuading the company to reverse course.

“I told them pretty much (what) everyone else did,” she said. “People who shop here don’t all have cars, and you’ve got the high-rise down the street, elderly people and people with disabilities. Not only has (this store) been good for the downtown area, but it’s also been good for us on Marland Heights.”

Criss said people on Marland Heights, too, got used to being able to run into the downtown store on their way home from work or church, or if they just needed to pick up a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread.

“Now we’re going to have to go up on the hill,” she said. “It’s a sad thing, to see this store closing.”

(Harris can be contacted at lharris@heraldstaronline.com)

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