Some cities have a tradition of unofficially naming certain grocery and convenience stores. In Atlanta, they nickname the city's Kroger grocery stores.
The custom has birthed Disco Kroger, so named because the store is the site of a former disco club. There’s Hipster Kroger because it’s in a trendy neighborhood and has a sizable organic section. There’s also Kosher Kroger, reflecting its ties to the Jewish community.
And then there’s Murder Kroger.
The store most likely got its nickname after a woman was shot and killed in the parking lot in the early '90s. It inspired a song by the local band Attractive Eighties Women. In "Murder Kroger," the band warns potential patrons they could be “shot in the head for [their] grocery list.”
Recently, the Kroger in question held a "grand re-opening" to highlight recent renovations. Store management wants to shake the Murder Kroger moniker for something a little more pleasant.
“We prefer our store is called BeltLine Kroger,” says Glynn Jenkins, spokesperson for Kroger’s Atlanta division.
Jenkins is talking about the Atlanta BeltLine, a project that’s turning old train lines to walking trails and eventually light rail with a promise to connect the sprawling city like never before.
The Kroger sits next to it.
“We’ve made changes that include a bicycle/pedestrian ramp that connects directly to the BeltLine,” Jenkins says. “There’s a bicycle repair station, there’s new landscaping, new curbs and sidewalks.”
Though Jenkins insists this isn’t a rebranding effort, store officials are pushing the "BeltLine Kroger" nickname in a press release about those improvements.
What business wouldn’t want to be associated with the BeltLine?
Since 2005, the BeltLine has netted the city more than a billion dollars in new private developments along the trails, project officials say. With it has come a new Kroger clientele that can afford $1,300 rents for studio apartments smaller than 600 square feet.
But some Atlantans aren’t going along with the store’s name-change effort. Mack Williams, who wrote the song "Murder Kroger," says you don’t get to choose a nickname.
“It’s just like if you’re in junior high and you have nickname that you don’t like, and you try and give yourself another nickname, none of your friends are going to call you by the new nickname that you picked that you like,” he says.
Walking along the BeltLine by the grocery store, residents seemed more optimistic, pointing to the luxury apartments and new stores that have sprung up along the trail.
“I think with something as vibrant as the BeltLine and right here beside Ponce City Market that it will be possible for Murder Kroger to shake its bad name,” says Laura Reese, who’s lived in the city for 20 years.
Lisa Bengoa once lived by the grocery store and says she never felt safe walking near it. “I guess if the community changes and the patrons change and the business wants to change it, I’m hoping for the best,” she says.
Manon Herzog, a brand specialist with Atlanta-based Davis Brand Capital, says it’s possible to shake the nickname, but it’s not going to happen overnight.
“You cannot just make the decision to call it something else, and it will all go away,” Herzog says. “You will actually have to back it up with actions.”
It all depends on how the neighborhood develops, Herzog says. Kroger’s taken a good first step, she says, by trying to align itself with the BeltLine. But the store needs to go beyond the naming ties – build a path up to the BeltLine and work with the neighborhood.
“You really want to look at what it means to build a community that has more positive than negative," Herzog says.
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