Rumors that have flown around York County for months are now substantial enough to elicit some action from local business owners.
Shoppers have reported for nearly a year that the Kroger grocery store in York County will move from its current space into the much larger retail space in the Village Square at Kiln Creek Shopping Center currently occupied by Kmart.
Kmart, they say, will close.
The information has come from Kroger employees and local real estate agents, the shoppers say. The details are firm enough to prompt Gregory Millslagle, owner of Wild Birds Unlimited, to move his business next month.
A phone call to the press office of Sears Holdings Corp., the umbrella company for Kmart, was not returned. An administrative assistant for The Breeden Co., the Virginia Beach-based real estate company that manages the shopping center, said no one was available to comment.
UPDATE: A representative for Sears Holdings Corp. contacted the Daily Press on Tuesday with the following comment:
“The Kmart store in Tabb previously carried food and grocery merchandise. We discontinued carrying those products in 2011 and have since held discussions with possible tenants to lease that portion of our store," said Howard Reifs in an emailed statement. "Under no circumstances will the store close. Rather, the store will continue to remain open and operating to serve our members and customers in York County and the surrounding communities.”
An email and a phone call to Kroger representatives were not returned.
"There are a lot of factors that go into making the decision to move your business," Millslagle says. "If you look at the traffic pattern now, we're going to lose just about everything we have if they (Kroger) make that move."
Wild Birds Unlimited is located in the smaller shopping plaza behind Kmart, near the ice skating rink. If Kroger moves into the Kmart building, the likely new entrance will divert traffic to the opposite end of Millslagle's business.
He plans to move his bird watching hobbyist store across the street to the Pavilion at Kiln Creek shopping center, behind Ruby Tuesdays.
Kroger, which recently entered a deal to purchase Harris Teeter stores, has for months declined to confirm the York County rumor, although the move would seem to be in line with Kroger's view for expansion in the area.
Kroger recently opened a Marketplace store, its first in the area, in Virginia Beach. The Kmart location would be large enough for a Kroger Marketplace.
Millslagle will add about 1,000 square feet to his space at Wild Birds Unlimited. Business has been good in the past year, he said, adding that sales have increased by as much as 30 percent.
The new Wild Birds Unlimited store is scheduled to open Sept. 23, with a grand opening celebration planned for October.
As for when the Kroger, Kmart move would take place — that's still up in the air. January is the rumored date.
"I have tried to confirm it, but they have to keep tight-lipped about it," Millslagle says. "All the real estate agents around here know about it, but nothing can be said on the record."
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