There’s nothing like an influx of competition to raise the grocery game, from gourmet markets popping up in trendy neighborhoods to authentic ethnic-food shops supplying adventurous home cooks. A $10.8 million Kroger renovation in Carmel is wowing shoppers with details that feel more Disney fantasy than strip mall ho-hum. It’s hard to tell who’s enjoying it more, the shoppers or the employees. “I’ve been working with Kroger a long time,” says store manager Karen Hansen. “And I’ve never had this much fun.”
The first thing visitors notice upon entering is a prepared-food and bistro section that could qualify for its own ZIP code. Two executive chefs and seven sous chefs lead a team that cooks made-to-order burgers, pizzas, burrito bowls, brisket, and other dishes, along with a large case of tapas and ready-to-go foods, all made on site. In the mood for a California roll? Pull up a chair at the sushi train, where individual plates glide by on a conveyer belt, while you pick and choose pieces to suit your appetite and budget. Once your eyes soak it all in, you may notice your ears picking up on something unusual for a grocery store: live music. Kroger management works with local musicians to provide entertainment during lunch and dinner daily. Spotted at a recent lunchtime: a harpist.
If you have a sweet tooth, stroll back to the posh bakery department where an entire case is devoted to chocolate-covered goodies, including Twinkies, bacon, and marshmallows, just to name a few. The store also houses the only satellite location of The Cake Bake Shop, Gwendolyn Rogers’s destination bakery in Broad Ripple. Of course, enjoying all the bells and whistles of the new Kroger comes with the risk that you’ll forget the one thing you went in for: cereal. 1217 S. Range Line Rd., Carmel, 846-4431