Shoppers will discover upscale services inside a single store — typically available only in major markets — when a new $20 million Kroger Marketplace opens Aug. 19 in Columbus.

Featuring spacious aisles and wooden shelves rather than typical metal racks, plus a wide mix of merchandise, the new Columbus store at 3060 N. National Road will become the company’s premiere flagship Marketplace store in Indiana, said John Elliott, public affairs manager for the Kroger Co. Central Division.

While the Kroger Marketplace concept is growing in the Hoosier State, it’s been confined to larger metropolitan areas.

Currently, there are two such stores on the south side of Indianapolis, as well as two in Fort Wayne — the state’s two biggest markets, Elliott said. The company has plans to construct another five in the Indianapolis area by the end of 2019, he said.

Story continues below gallery

Stores currently under construction include a third in Fort Wayne, as well as one in Fishers in north-suburban Indianapolis, Elliott said.

Kroger shoppers will find that departments are the same places in each location, but the exact layout and mix of merchandise is decided store-by-store, he said.

The corporation brought the Marketplace concept to Columbus because the existing local Kroger — located a block away — regularly experiences high-volume sales comparable to stores in much more heavily populated cities, Elliott said.

The 125,000-square-foot facility built on the former Dolly Madison bakery site is more than twice as large as the current Columbus Kroger at 3110 N. National Road.

After customers turn right upon entering, they will come across a large dining area that features the Bistro Café and Starbucks.

While gourmet pizza, burritos, and chicken combo meals may appear similar to everyday cuisine, what is likely to catch many by surprise is the crescent-shaped sushi bar.

This was added after market research showed Pan Asian foods appeal not only to people originating from Asian countries but also to many international business travelers who reside in the Columbus area, Elliott said.

The unique mix of shopping interests of customers determines the selection in each store, Elliott said.

Describing the entire dining concept as a “groc-aurant”, which he defined as a destination restaurant within a supermarket environment, Elliot said six trained chefs have been hired to keep the Bistro Café stocked with restaurant-quality food.

Those chefs will be among the 330 to 360 full- and part-time workers employed at the Kroger Marketplace, more than double the 150 employees who have worked at the current store, he said.

The new store is still looking for an additional 20 employees to work in the delicatessen and bistro area, as well as 20 cashiers and baggers, Kroger hiring specialist Jill Williams said.

More new features

As shoppers walk through the produce section toward the delicatessen counters, they will see an outlet for Murray’s Cheese, an historic New York City shop that markets 175 cheese varieties.

Not far from Murray’s is the Olive Bar, which offers peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted garlic mushrooms and caprese salad, in addition to a wide variety of international olives.

In the back, adjacent to the meat and seafood departments, is “The Grill Station.” For shoppers who would prefer free samples of meat and seafood dishes before buying, this will be a popular spot during demonstration days, Elliott predicted.

A wide selection of natural foods, including one full aisle of bulk goods in clear plastic canisters, can be found in the front center portion of the store.

Kroger’s natural food division — which provides organics and specialties without artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, sweeteners, and hydrogenated fats — has grown more than any other department during the past 11 years, Elliott said.

While one-third of the available conventional groceries continue to be company-owned brands, customers at the Marketplace will be able to choose from almost 50,000 items — compared to about 30,000 at the current Kroger, Elliott said.

There’s also the new apparel section that offers a shoe department, accessories and intimates, as well as conventional clothing, not available at a traditional Kroger grocery.

Integrated within the supermarket area are two divisions expected to be popular: The Kitchen Place, which provides cookware and dinnerware, and a department dedicated to providing other household items such as vacuum cleaners.

Kids may be drawn to the back of the store, where several aisles have been set aside for an extensive toy department that feature nationally advertised toy brands, Elliott said.

Medical clinic added

A decision was made a few months ago to place a walk-in wellness clinic adjacent to the pharmacy of the new Kroger Marketplace, Elliott said.

Staffed by board-certified nurse practitioners, The Little Clinic will be able to diagnose, treat and write prescriptions for common illnesses such as bronchitis, sinus infections, seasonal allergies and the flu with two exam rooms and its own lab.

After first opening in Indianapolis in 2014, the Little Clinic provides health care in conjunction with St. Vincent Health without the need for an appointment, Elliott said.

When asked how this outlet will be similar or different from other supermarket-department store combos, Elliott declined to comment on Kroger competitors.

Columbus like many U.S. cities has had everything-under-one-roof super stores such as Walmart and Target for some time.

Such businesses owe much of their inspiration to the 94-year-old Fred Meyer stores — considered a supercenter pioneer — that has long operated in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, according to industry trade publications.

After Kroger merged with the Fred Meyer Stores in 1999, both corporations have been unifying standards, slowly becoming more similar in management and merchandising, Elliott said.  Kroger continues to leverage the expertise of the Fred Meyer Stores to constantly expand its selection of general merchandise in Columbus and other locations, he said.

Local shoppers will be able to try out the new Kroger shopping experience without even walking inside the store.

A few days after next Friday’s opening, the new Marketplace will begin to offer ClickList, Kroger’s online grocery shopping service, Elliott said.

ClickList allows shoppers to order their groceries through the company’s website for curbside pick-up the next day.

Kroger Marketplace special features

  • Murray’s Cheese Shop
  • Bistro Cafe with sushi bar
  • Starbucks
  • The Little Clinic
  • Apparel
  • Kitchen Place
  • Expanded Toy Department

History of Kroger in Columbus

Kroger has a long history in the Columbus area that dates to the 1920s.

1926: Kroger opens first store in Columbus at 607 Washington St.

1933: Columbus Kroger moves to 531 Washington St. A second Kroger store also operated during this time at 332 Third St.

1942: Kroger moves across Sixth Street into the Odd Fellows Building.

1957: Kroger opens 15,000-square-foot store at 1800 25th St.

1977: Kroger opens 56,000-square-foot store at 3110 N. National Road, the largest in Indiana at that time.

2016: Kroger will open its 125,000 square-foot Marketplace at 8 a.m. Aug. 19 at its new location, 3060 N. National Road, site of the former Dolly Madison bakery.

Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.