Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


September 2, 2012

Another empty building? — Controversy underscores need for action

Disappointing. How else can you describe the announcement that came out of last week’s meeting between the city of Bluefield and officials with K-VA-T Food Stores, Inc., regarding the old Kroger site on Cumberland Road.

If we are to believe what we are being told, it sounds as if the Kroger store will remain vacant — perhaps for the next five years. And that’s simply unacceptable. The last thing the city of Bluefield needs is another empty store. We realize that. The citizens of Bluefield realize that. And the elected city board members realize that.

And what makes this story even more tragic is the fact that Grant’s Supermarket — a good corporate neighbor for Mercer County — was fully committed to developing a new grocery store at the old Kroger site before the lease was awarded to K-VA-T Food Stores, Inc., the corporate owners of the Food City chain.

But not all hope is lost. K-VA-T Chief Executive Officer Steve Smith told the Daily Telegraph last week that although restoring the old Kroger location is too cost prohibitive, he says the company is willing to sub-lease the building to another business. More importantly, Smith says K-VA-T Food Stores, Inc., is exploring possible new locations for a grocery store in Bluefield.

Great. We will hold Smith to his word. And city officials, including Economic Development Director Greg Shrewsbury, must now actively and aggressively work with Smith and K-VA-T Food Stores, Inc., to find a suitable site in Bluefield for the company to build a new grocery store. And the same goes for any other company that is interested in building a grocery store, retail store or industry in the city.

Having a new Food City, or Super Dollar Discount Foods chain in the city, and a new non-grocery store tenant at the old Kroger, would be a win-win for Bluefield. Smith says this is what he wants to do. Let’s make it happen.

The alternative — no new grocery, and an empty building — isn’t acceptable. It’s not acceptable for the citizens of Bluefield who frequented the old Kroger store for years and years. And it can’t be deemed as acceptable for city officials.

Does the future of the city of Bluefield hinge upon a positive decision for the old Kroger building? No, a new grocery store won’t save Bluefield. It is only a necessary start. One person, and one entity, cannot bring Bluefield back to its former greatness. It will take a team effort working over a period of time. Citizens working with the city. City officials working with their citizens. And city officials working with companies like K-VA-T Food Stores, Inc., to develop new industry and businesses in the city.

Failure is no longer an option. And no stone can be left unturned in the search for new business growth in the city of Bluefield. Bluefield must work with all prospective companies and industries — including  K-VA-T Food Stores, Inc. and the Grant’s Supermarket chain — in the pursuit of new grocery stores, retail chains, restaurants, manufacturing firms and other industries.

Let’s get to work now. There is much to be done, and the city can’t afford to waste another minute.

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