Atlantans came out for a candlelight vigil-turned-parking lot party to say goodbye to what they regarded as a landmark of the city, “Murder Kroger”, which was shut down on Oct. 28 and is set to be remodeled and ready by early 2018.
Located on 725 Ponce de Leon Ave., Kroger first acquired its spooky nickname when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) reported on a 1991 murder of a young woman in the store’s parking lot. Two others have since been murdered outside the famous grocery store, one of which was a Georgia State junior, shot and killed in the parking lot in 2012.
“It’s not about the people, it’s about the store, it’s a community store,” Ashley Patterson, one of the vigil attendees and Atlanta resident said.” The people that are urban enough understand that it’s okay to walk around, you won’t get murdered. It’s a comic name.”
But for the city’s urban residents, the chilling reputation is only a part of the value that Kroger holds for the surrounding community.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of us that still shop here, without being afraid of getting murdered. I hope the re-model is very quick, because I shop here all the time,” she said.
So when Georgia State students and friends, Rachel Bowen and Rowyn Hirsch, heard it would be closing down, they invited their friends to hold a vigil in the store’s memory. But after making the event public on Facebook, hundreds of people began joining the cause.
“Four hours [after posting it on Facebook], there were two hundred people saying they were going,” Hirsch said.
A thousand people RSVPed to the event’s Facebook page, and about a hundred filled up the parking lot last Thursday, sporting ‘Murder Kroger’ T-shirts and holding candles.
But some weren’t too fond of the idea of a vigil. The event received backlash from people who said the event was disrespectful towards the lives lost within the store’s parking lot.
“It was definitely never like we were forgetting about the people that were murdered. We’ll have a moment of silence if that’s necessary, but [the vigil] was never meant to hurt anyone,” Bowen said.
According to Damon Parker, a friend of the 25-year-old woman shot in the store’s parking lot in 1991, this was “just another trick for fame”.
“[The organizers] don’t even know who it was that died,” he said. “They just want to get their face on camera, and be famous.”
To Parker, the store’s nickname is a bitter reminder of the events that took place that year.
“It’s funny,” he said. “We contacted five newspapers to talk about the prevalence of the shirts, and didn’t get a response. I remember being in the Little Five Points parade, and [there was] a float [with Murder Kroger’s logo].”
Atlanta native Wes Schiel said calling the store “Murder Kroger” is anything but disrespectful.
“I can see why they wouldn’t want it to be called Murder Kroger, but at the same time, it’s said with endearment. It’s part of Atlanta’s culture,” he said. “I went to Georgia Tech in the 1990s, and when people asked where you were going for groceries, you’d say ‘I’m going to Murder Kroger’, it was a way to designate it from the other Krogers. There was nothing else to call it, there was only one name.”
The store shut down Oct. 28, as part of a $190 million redevelopment deal which will bring an upgraded Kroger and a 12-story office building, and is expected to last until 2018.