Main & Vine in Gig Harbor closing in January

So long, Main & Vine.

The experimental grocery store operated by Cincinnati-based Kroger is closing next month, two years after it opened, Kroger announced Friday.

“Main & Vine is expected to remain open for customers until its closing on or about January 9,” Kroger spokeswoman Kristal Howard told The News Tribune in an emailed statement Friday.

No reason for the closure was given.

Kroger noted Friday that the store employs about 80 workers and said it was working to help place them at area Fred Meyer and QFC stores.

“I had no idea that they were going to close, I actually thought they were doing pretty well,” customer Casey Olive of Purdy said at the store Friday.

“I would hate if it closed because it’s one of my favorite places to come on a day off to relax and enjoy myself.”

For Kroger, Main & Vine was a “unique venture,” Howard said.

“From the Main & Vine experience, we have learned many things about some of the best ways to provide quality, fresh and new foods to our customers,” she said.

“Our family of companies has already started to incorporate some of these features and unique offerings in other stores across the country, including the new Fred Meyer store opening next month in Gig Harbor.”

Signs at the existing Gig Harbor Fred Meyer in early November said the new store was opening Jan. 10.

The site, before becoming Main & Vine, was a QFC. Several QFC employees stayed on to work at Main & Vine.

Shortly after news of the closure spread, an online petition was created to save Main & Vine.

Consider the Gig Harbor store a learning experience for the grocer.

In its arrival announcement in 2015, then-Main & Vine representative Jamie Campbell told The News Tribune the store would be “a place where locals and local foods intertwine.”

It would offer “a seasonally curated array of products, including fresh, organic, local and sustainable foods, alongside an assortment of go-to big-brand staples, all at affordable prices,” Campbell said at the time.

The store’s design included a “Living Wall” — a vertical garden of live, decorative but inedible native plants. The store also was one of the first area grocers to promote an in-store app and perks program.

It opened the same time Safeway returned to its former Gig Harbor home after Haggen closed.

A few months after Main & Vine opened, Kroger’s CEO Rodney McMullen told The Cincinnati Business Courier the company was taking some of its concepts to the chain’s traditional stores.

Among them were revamping the menus in its Marketplace stores, based partly on what it learned at Main & Vine, McMullen said.

While Friday’s news surprised customers, there were indicators pointing to the changes ahead.

“Its proximity to the new Fred Meyer means the two stores would undoubtedly compete, causing the company to have ‘too much’ footage chasing the potential of that market,” said Bert Hambleton, president of Hambleton Resources Inc., which specializes in strategic planning for retail grocery.

Hambleton said he he had no information about why Main & Vine was closing, but noted “it is not hard to imagine that the ‘experiment’ was slated to end when the Fred Meyer redo was complete.

“There is precedent for this type of action by a large retailer.”

On Thursday, Kroger announced it had better than expected third-quarter earnings. This led some to theorize it’s better equipped to handle the Amazon/Whole Foods juggernaut than industry experts thought.

Also on Thursday, Fred Meyer announced it had its best Black Friday ever. Top sellers were socks, sleepwear, boots, small appliances, seasonal merchandise and décor, toys, tablets and smart home devices.

“Our company has strategically worked to align our product assortment and unique shopping experience with what our customers tell us they want,” Joe Grieshaber, president of Fred Meyer, said in a statement.

The end of Main & Vine is not the end of the grocer’s experimentation. Kroger still plans to launch a clothing line next year.

As for what happens in Gig Harbor, the soon-to-be vacant storefront opens up possibilities for other grocers, such as Trader Joe’s, which the city made a run for in 2011.

Staff photographer Drew Perine contributed to this report

Debbie Cockrell: 253-597-8364, @Debbie_Cockrell

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