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When Carlie C’s IGA opens its doors on New Bern Avenue Wednesday morning, the grocery store will look much the same as the Kroger it’s replacing.
The layout and signage hasn’t changed. The SunTrust bank branch never closed as the space changed hands. And Person Street Pharmacy will fill prescriptions from the old Kroger drugstore window.
It’s business as usual for shoppers in East Raleigh, because the Dunn-based chain aimed to make a quick, smooth transition. Remodeling will come later, said Mack McLamb Jr., the company’s president.
If you go
What: Raleigh’s first Carlie C’s IGA grocery store
Where: 4111 New Bern Ave., in Wilders Grove Shopping Center
Hours: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
For more information: carliecs.com or 919-250-7876
“If you can open quickly, you can offer a service to people before they start going somewhere else,” he said. With a Walmart next door and two Food Lions down the street, Carlie C’s enters a competitive market in this section of the city.
As Carlie C’s brings the Wilders Grove Shopping Center back to life, the other closed Kroger, in Southeast Raleigh, stays dark, leaving the neighborhood with limited access to fresh foods. That location just wasn’t a good fit for the company’s first Raleigh store, McLamb said.
“If a retailer is losing $1.5 million, we’d have to have something drastically different to make money,” he said.
Carlie C’s was also looking for an affordable lease, and McLamb said they negotiated good terms with Fayetteville landlord Joe Riddle, who owns Wilders Grove. The grocery has four locations in Riddle’s hometown.
“We had a 20-year relationship with the landlord,” McLamb said. “That was a big factor in him understanding where we needed to be. We’re very competitively priced, and we have to have occupancy costs that are right.”
The former Kroger on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard has a big strike against it: the Ohio company owns the property instead of a local developer. That’s a deterrent to grocery chains that want to rent space.
Southeast Raleigh’s city councilman, Eugene Weeks, said he’s trying to persuade Kroger executives to make the location affordable.
“They need to work with whatever supermarket may be coming in there,” Weeks said. “We’ve got stores that are interested. ... I think that Kroger is going to need to help Southeast Raleigh by meeting them halfway.”
Weeks said he wants to see a new store within three to six months: “We don’t want to see it vacant like Longview center,” where a former Winn-Dixie has been vacant more than five years on New Bern Avenue.
Weeks and Mayor Nancy McFarlane have written to the Florida-based Publix grocery chain – rumored to be planning a Raleigh expansion – asking them to look at the former Kroger. Another option is splitting the space between several businesses, Weeks said, provided all the amenities of Kroger are included.
“We want a store, we want a gas station, we want a pharmacy and we want a bank,” he said.
Many Southeast Raleigh residents don’t have a car and have lost easy access to those businesses. That’s one reason the neighborhood is considered a “food desert” under federal guidelines.
And while Carlie C’s arrival today might be a boon to families outside the Beltline, don’t expect many former shoppers from the other Kroger to make the trip. Car-less shoppers would have to spend an hour on two different buses to get there.