Recently a new 73,000 square foot Kroger Fresh Fare grocery store opened at 4901 Maple Avenue in what is considered an "economically distressed Census tract." It is also adjacent to two food deserts as defined by the USDA, a designation that indicates limited access to groceries, particularly fresh food.
A $12 million loan from the Dallas Development Fund (DDF) was instrumental in bringing this particular Kroger concept (or "Central Market-lite") to town.
And Central Market-lite it surely is. Walking through the store Saturday I immediately began suffering from senses overloaded -- albeit the good kind.
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The new Kroger Fresh Fare also has a huge floral department, garden furniture, an expanded gluten-free and organic selection, and more locally grown produce than other Kroger stores.
There was the loud popping of that weird popper thing (they have cinnamon and whole wheat options), fresh tortillas being pressed out to my left, sushi roll samples being pilfered to my right, rows of bulk granola, a huge salad bar, a chefs case, olives, olives and more olives ... where am I, again? This store actually resembles CM's more levelheaded little sister, HEB .
On Saturday afternoon this spot was busy, but not busting at the seams. The parking lot was about three-quarters full (there is also a DART station nearby). In all, it offers ample opportunity to snack, discover, shop and grab a hot, ready-to-go meal. And the employees I ran across were all cool and encouraged gratuitous sampling.
According to a release from the City of Dallas, DDF is a program aimed at stimulating private investments that provide jobs, services, fresh foods and reinvestments in areas with high poverty. This store employs 140-full time equivalent positions. The DDF received a $55 million allocation in 2009 and has leveraged about $35 million to date, part of which went to finance this Kroger Fresh Fare.