Mike Slaton looked at his watch late Thursday morning and estimated how many hours were left. At that point, it was under 140.
“Every hour counts,” said Slaton, the store director of the new Maryville Kroger Marketplace, which will open next week.
Judging by the number of cars in the parking lot, you would think the store was already open. There have been between 300 and 375 people on a given day working on setup at the new store, said manager Lynn Cox.
Many of the shelves are already stocked with nonperishable food and household items. Dairy, produce and meat items will be added to shelves in the coming days.
The 123,500-square-foot Kroger Marketplace at 507 N. Foothills Plaza Drive will replace the current Maryville Kroger store on Watkins Road. The Watkins Road store will close for good at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, and the Kroger Marketplace will open at 7 a.m. on Wednesday.
About half of the Watkins Road staff have already transitioned over to the new store, and the other half will join them on Wednesday. All together, the store will go from 147 employees to about 375.
“I’ve been at Kroger for 42 years and this is the most exciting store I’ve been in,” said Slaton as he gave a tour of the Marketplace on Thursday.
More groceries, more items
While it is the fourth Kroger Marketplace store to open in the Greater Knoxville Area, the Maryville Kroger Marketplace has features that the other three don’t, including an online ordering service and a growler fill station.
Even in the regular grocery aisles, Slaton and Cox said the larger floor space has allowed them to vastly increase the variety of brands of products they sell.
“We can carry so many more varieties that our customers want but we just couldn’t carry across the street,” Slaton said.
One section he’s especially excited about is expanded the natural foods section. Slaton said the customer base in Maryville is “extremely interested” in organic and natural products for healthy living.
The dairy section is nearly four times larger than at the old store, and the meat department will have an open-air seafood shop and a grilling station.
Beyond the groceries, there is a home and kitchen section with dishes, small appliances and utensils for sale; a floral shop; Fred Meyer Jewelers; a Starbuck’s counter; a Bistro serving prepared meals; a Fresh Juice Bar and a sushi bar. There’s a pet section, school and office supplies, racks of clothing and apparel, a toy department and more.
The store has a full service pharmacy with two drive-thru lanes and a Little Clinic, a walk-up clinic open seven days a week.
New area features
The Maryville store will be only the ninth Kroger Marketplace to offer ClickList, an online ordering service. Customers will be able to create a shopping list online, select a pickup time and place an order for anything in the store except apparel, Slaton said.
Employees will pick out and bag the items and have them waiting when the customer comes to pick up their order — all for a fee of $4.95.
“Kroger has been testing online ordering in select store in other areas since Nov. 2014 and the feedback from our customers has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Melissa Eads, Kroger spokesperson. “Senior citizens, parents with young children and busy professionals all appreciate this new convenience.”
The Maryville store is also only the fifth Kroger store to have a growler fill station. There will be 12 craft beers on tap.
“We’ll have the best craft beer selection around in Maryville. It’ll just be incredible,” Cox said.
Right next to the growler station are shelves and signs ready for when wine is allowed to be sold in Tennessee grocery stores in July 2016.
“We want the store to be an experience for customers,” Cox said.
The doors will open at 7 a.m. on Wednesday, and the first 500 customers will receive a free package of Simple Truth chicken breasts.
An official ribbon-cutting will be held at 9 a.m., and will include a special salute for Veterans Day with help from the Jr. ROTC from William Blount High School and the Maryville High School marching band.
Former University of Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer will be on site signing autographs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.