Last week, one of the largest Kroger supermarkets in the state of Georgia opened its doors to the citizens of Dawsonville.
The new store, which has moved from its old location at the intersection of Ga. 400 and Hwy. 53, opened at 6 a.m. on Nov. 16. The old Kroger location closed for good at 6 p.m. on Nov. 15
A ribbon cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. on Nov. 16 cemented the store's new place in the retail center that is Dawsonville's Ga. 400 corridor.
More than 100 people gathered in front of the store to welcome the new manager and celebrate the grand opening.
Attending the ceremony were representatives from local government, including Dawsonville Mayor James Grogan, County Commission Chair Mike Berg, members of the chamber of commerce, Dawson County Schools, Homestead Creamery, Blue Bell and many others. Sen. Steve Gooch and Rep. Kevin Tanner were also in attendance.
Jeff Wojtkowiak, vice president of operations for Kroger Atlanta, welcomed the crowd and the Dawson County High School Tiger Pride Marching Band, who played music throughout the event.
"We are very, very proud to be here this morning to be a part of all the continued economic growth that is happening here in Dawsonville, Ga." Wojtkowiak said. "We've got probably the biggest group I think we've had for a grand opening that I've been a part of this year."
Wojtkowiak also introduced Ed Loy, the new store manager.
"I was sharing with Ed that in the 35 years of my career that I've only had the chance to open one brand new facility and it's pretty special and stays pretty close in your heart when you get a chance to open a store," Wojtkowiak said. "Ed is pretty special because this is not the first store that he has opened but the second: he was also the store manager of the Kroger Marketplace that we opened up in Athens in 2014."
Loy has been with Kroger for nearly 20 years, just as long as Kroger has had a store in Dawsonville. Loy began his career with Kroger in 1997 as an assistant manager at the Peachtree Parkway store in Suwanee, and since then has served in multiple leadership positions.
Loy recognized his family, coworkers and the real estate developers who brought the store to fruition. Loy also recognized two long-time figures in the old Dawsonville Kroger who were also present at the ceremony: pharmacist Jack Burrell and retired store associate Chuck Satty.
"If I'm ever having a bad day and I walk by the pharmacy, Jack's laugh is contagious: he is a pleasure to work with." Loy said. "Also, if you're not from Dawsonville and aren't just here to visit, you know Chuck. Chuck retired about eight months ago, but if he wants to come back to work, he can always come on back."
Grogan and Berg also spoke about their excitement for the new store and it's potential.
"We're tickled that you've chosen to start your 20th year here in Dawsonville in this brand new facility, it's just unbelievable," Grogan said.
"I'd like to give a special thanks to the developers who took a leap of faith on the development of this whole property and it's going to turn out for them," Berg said. "Also Charlie Auvermann and the development authority- a special thanks to them because this thing didn't just fall in here last night. This whole project has been worked on for many years and Kroger had an opportunity not to be here but we're so lucky and know we worked hard to get these people here."
Inside the 125,000 square foot building, an expanded floral, ready-made food and grocery section, as well as a new Starbucks counter, greeted customers.
A fully staffed sushi bar with hot and cold Pan Asian food, a soup and salad bar, an expanded indoor seating section and a brick pizza oven were added to the store's regular food offerings, as well as an expanded wine and beer section, olive bar and New York-based Murray's Cheese Shop.
A new home decor section was stocked with Christmas and holiday decorations, and included home goods like storage bins and seating. The store also features a Little Clinic, Baby World, drive thru pharmacy, expanded toy section and an apparel section.
The clothing section, a new addition for the store and the one that people were most excited for, was packed with women's clothes and accessories, men's clothes and clothes for babies and children. Everything was on sale, and some items could even be reduced further with coupons that were handed out by store managers.
Clotilde Picariello of Cumming shopped around the new apparel section and picked out a few holiday sweaters, which were 60 percent off in honor of the grand opening.
"I've lived in Cumming for four years and I'm so glad this store is here now, it's so convenient," Picariello said. "I think the clothing selection is beautiful. They have good prices right now and everything looks so modern."
The store also has more than double the amount of self-check registers as the old store, which will help the flow of the regular-sized checkout counters. The old Kroger location had six self-check registers, but the new Kroger has 18: four in the deli section for people popping in for lunch and 12 at the front of the store.
Due to the store's size and expanded services, the new Kroger requires around 300 employees, where the old Kroger employed around 150.
On Nov. 30 the store will begin implementing ClickList online shopping. Shoppers can go online, fill a basket with groceries and other supplies and then order the items. They can pick their purchases up next day at the store, without having to ever come inside.
The Kroger is located in the Dawson Marketplace shopping center just south of North Georgia Premium Outlets at the intersection of Ga. 400 and Dawson Forest Road on a 100-acre site.
Regular hours will be 6 a.m.-1 a.m. seven days a week.
The new Kroger marketplace will be joined by many fast food and retail stores that will be built in the new shopping center in the near future.
The new stores are expected to include: Ross, Marshalls, Hobby Lobby, Petco, Ulta, Famous Footwear, Bealls Outlet, Verizon Wireless, Five Below, Kirklands, Starbucks, Panda Express, Cheeseburger Bobby's, Rising Roll Gourmet Sandwiches and more.